HC Deb 03 November 1955 vol 545 cc1191-3
20. Mr. Dodds

asked the President of the Board of Trade, in view of the easing of tension between East and West, what progress has been made, and what the future plans are, to increase the volume of East-West trade as far as this country is concerned.

Mr. P. Thorneycroft

Our trade with the Soviet bloc countries is increasing. Our exports to Russia are now running at twice the level of 1954 and our imports have increased by one-third. There have also been material increases in our trade with most other countries in Eastern Europe. I am sure that we can continue to rely on the initiative of our exporters to make the most of the opportuniies provided by these countries to increase trade in non-strategic goods.

Mr. Dodds

Is it not a fact that last year the Russians exported to us over £40 million worth of goods, whereas we exported to them only £19½ million worth? As they are such good payers and have plenty of gold and sterling, surely some special effort could be made to increase that ratio.

Mr. Thorneycroft

A number of special efforts have been made, including a revision of the strategic list, and a number of visits to Russia by British industrialists.

Mr. H. Wilson

In view of the changes and improvements which the Foreign Secretary has told us have occurred in East-West political relationships generally, does the President feel it right that there has been no significant change in the strategic list since July, 1954? Secondly, as the Question referred to trade between East and West, and not necessarily to trade with Eastern Europe, can he give any indication at all as to when the Government are going to take the initiative in lifting the embargo on trade with China?

Mr. Thorneycroft

Questions on any reform of the arrangements under the United Nations Resolution should be addressed to the Foreign Secretary.

Viscount Hinchingbrooke

Will my right hon. Friend look particularly at the possibility of increasing trade with East Germany, a country which has much that she could send us at the present time? Would he observe the political advantages that are likely to accrue therefrom?

Mr. Thorneycroft

My hon. Friend is aware of some of the difficulties in the case of trade with East Germany, but I shall certainly bear that suggestion in mind.

Mr. Hale

Would the right hon. Gentleman also bear in mind that the considerable orders placed for textile machinery some time ago, orders which came partly as a result of the labours of hon. Members on this side of the House, are now running out; that a serious position is developing in the textile machinery industry; that unemployment already exists in Lancashire, and that a report which I have received says that this will soon affect Oldham? Will he cause an inquiry to be made into the textile machinery industry and consider receiving representations from Lancashire?

Mr. Thorneycroft

I am always ready to receive representations.

Mr. Royle

Will the President answer the Question put by my right hon. Friend the Member for Huyton (Mr. H. Wilson)? Is there any chance of revising the strategic list, last examined in 1954?

Mr. Thorneycroft

My right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill), when Prime Minister, once said that finality is a relative term in politics, but we had a full review of the strategic list, and a very substantial reduction in it, eighteen months ago. It is because of the initiative of the British Government in introducing it that there has been a very substantial increase in trade.