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Maritime 2050 Strategy

Volume 796: debated on Wednesday 13 March 2019


Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they are taking to implement their recently published strategy Maritime 2050: Navigating the Future.

In begging leave to ask the Question standing under my name, I declare my interests as recorded on the register.

My Lords, following the successful launch of the Maritime 2050 strategy, the Government’s focus is now on harnessing the enthusiasm and momentum generated and on implementing the recommendations at pace. That is under way through themed route maps, two of which are already published, with more following throughout 2019. The Government’s continued strong partnership with industry will be crucial, and we are enhancing the governance arrangements, which bring government and the sector together, to ensure that we deliver this ambitious strategy.

I thank the Minister for her response and commend the Government for the considerable work and support that the strategy demonstrates for this key sector. Trade, and our relationships with other countries, have clearly come into sharp focus. The maritime sector enables 95% of Britain’s exports and imports, contributes over £37 billion in GVA—bigger than aerospace—and supports almost 1 million jobs, more than aerospace or motor manufacturing. The strategy acknowledges the impact that new technologies will have on the maritime sector and the huge opportunities that will arise. What assurances can the Minister give that the Government will support and join MarRI-UK—in the light of leading maritime businesses, including SMEs, universities and other expert organisations, coming together through this national research and innovation body?

I thank the noble Lord for his Question, for his support of the maritime industry and for the important role he played when chairing the Government’s Maritime Growth Study. The Maritime 2050 strategy makes it clear that new technologies can help transform the industry and provide significant economic benefit. MarRI-UK will bring together expertise from a range of businesses and other organisations, and I assure the noble Lord that the Government strongly support the work of MarRI-UK. We hope that the organisation will become a key partner in delivering our strategy as set out.

My Lords, I welcome this report but does the Minister understand the importance of shipbuilding? The report states that the Government will,

“further develop the UK shipbuilding and maritime engineering industry, building on our global reputation for design, innovation and quality”.

All that applies to Appledore, which is due to close this Friday. What are the Government doing to make sure that they get more orders and find an operator for it?

My Lords, we published the National Shipbuilding Strategy in 2017, which will help transform naval and commercial shipbuilding. In relation to Appledore, the Government have worked hard with Babcock to identify defence opportunities that could protect the yard. However, regrettably, we were unable to identify any potential solutions. The South West Business Council has created a task force to help to ensure a future for the Appledore yard and negotiations with potential proprietors are ongoing. I know that the noble Lord has made representations on this matter to the Maritime Minister, who has responded and is working closely with local stakeholders.

My Lords, last week we celebrated International Women’s Day, but women are still extremely underrepresented in the transport sector. Only 4% of UK maritime certificated officers are women. This is a shocking statistic. What will the Government do to encourage diversity in the maritime sector?

My noble friend is right to highlight that women are badly underrepresented in the maritime sector and across the transport sector. The Women in Maritime Taskforce, which is supported by the Maritime Minister, Nusrat Ghani, has been working to address the issue. More than 100 organisations have signed the Women in Maritime Charter, which commits maritime companies to building an employment culture that actively supports and celebrates gender diversity. We have also recently funded the 1851 Trust’s maritime roadshows, which will promote maritime careers to girls across the country.

My Lords, under the heading of “competitive advantage recommendations”, Maritime 2050: Navigating the Future recommends that the Government and industry should work together,

“to maintain and enhance the attractiveness of the UK’s regional maritime clusters and London as a global maritime professional services cluster”.

Can the Minister explain to the House how the Government propose to do that in the context of Brexit and whether the Secretary of State for Transport is really the best person to be navigating our future?

My Lords, we are working closely with the maritime sector to ensure its continued success regardless of the outcome of the Brexit negotiations. Much of the maritime sector is governed internationally and the UK plays a prominent role in the International Maritime Organization, which is based just over the river from here. We will continue to play a key role regardless of the outcome of the negotiations.

My Lords, while I welcome the Government’s strategy, I ask them to do everything in their power to expedite the re-emergence of coastal shipping. This sector is of great importance to some of our coastal communities, which have been suffering from economic decline. The adoption of new propulsion techniques such as gas or even hydrogen would benefit the environment and new ships would reduce the number of heavy goods movements on our increasingly congested roads.

My Lords, we have the excellent Maritime Growth Study, which was led by the noble Lord, Lord Mountevans, with a review published last year. I agree with the noble Lord that we must do what we can to support the ports around our country. We have made great progress in ensuring that the UK has a strong maritime sector, with several billion pounds-worth of investment having been made across UK ports in recent years. The technology factor which the noble Lord has highlighted is something that we focus on in the strategy.

My Lords, I welcome this document but it is rather light on action. I am delighted that the Minister has said that it is harnessing my enthusiasm to try to do something about it—I would like to try to show that I have some enthusiasm for it. My question relates to shipbuilding and ship repair. There is no doubt that that is a crucial part of all of this. We have heard mention of Appledore already. We are about to go for competition for what I hope will be three solid support ships for the Royal Navy. Surely those ships should be built in the United Kingdom so that we can get the full benefit of maintaining high-level, high-tech jobs. We would not have to close shipyards or make people redundant. We can use British steel and there is absolutely no reason that we cannot build such ships in this country, because there is no requirement to put them to open competition.

My Lords, I believe that a global competition is running on that, but a British consortium is bidding. As I said earlier, we published the National Shipbuilding Strategy in 2017 which will help transform naval and commercial shipbuilding and the related procurement process. It details a new and competitive approach to the delivery of shipbuilding in this country.

My Lords, there seem to be more than 100 recommendations in the report, along with 143 references to the Government. Just how much resource is the Department for Transport going to put into this project?

My Lords, the noble Lord is right to highlight the many recommendations in the strategy. It contains commitments on how we are going to take action across the seven themes addressed in the strategy. Our priority is to ensure that the recommendations are implemented, with a focus on the next five years. I referred earlier to the publishing of road maps which will set out the plans, milestones and timing for the implementation of the recommendations. We have resources in place to deliver the strategy and of course we are also working closely with the industry to help deliver it. In terms of future funding, we are putting together a bid for the upcoming spending review which reflects our ambitions and the commitments made in Maritime 2050.