§ 31. Mr. Rankin
asked the President of the Board of Trade if his attention has been directed to the official statement by Mr. Ivan Kabanov, Soviet Minister of Foreign Trade, that Soviet commercial organisations are prepared to place orders with Britain over the next three years to the value of £116,000,000 worth of trade; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
I would refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave to the right hon. Member for Huyton (Mr. H. Wilson) on 16th February.
§ Mr. Rankin
I do not know what that answer was. In order to assist the House, would the Minister repeat it?
The substance of it was that the total orders which the Soviet Minister envisaged for three years amounted to about 4,500 million roubles. I said that, as far as we could see, at any rate rather less than half of the total would fall outside the present embargo.
§ Mr. Hector Hughes
Is the Minister aware that orders of the kind indicated are badly needed by the British shipbuilding industry, where the outlook is very unpromising and where there is a grave threat of unemployment? Will he do his best to facilitate the giving of Russian orders and other foreign orders to British shipbuilding firms?
We shall certainly not lose sight of the interests of the British shipbuilding industry, and that aspect is under consideration.
§ Mr. Gaitskell
Could the Minister inform the House what rate of exchange has been used in converting this figure of rouble orders into sterling?
I was afraid that either the right hon. Gentleman or some other hon. Member would ask me that question. All I can say is that it was the same rate of exchange as that which the right hon. Member for Huyton used when he asked me the Question. I believe it is known as the "official rate."
§ Mr. Gaitskell
It is clear, then, that it will be made in sterling, under our payments agreement with the U.S.S.R.? Surely, if that is the case, the right hon. Gentleman can give us a clearer idea of the total value in sterling of the orders?
I must ask the right hon. Gentleman to put down a special Question on that point, as I want to study it for some time before I give him an answer.