HC Deb 12 February 1963 vol 671 cc1115-6
Q6. Mr. Rankin

asked the Prime Minister if he will hold conversations with President Khrushchev with a view to promoting trade with Russia, consequent on the failure of Great Britain to gain entry to the Common Market.

The Prime Minister

No, Sir. Our Five-Year Trade Agreement provides a satisfactory framework for the development of Anglo-Soviet commerce.

Mr. Rankin

May I take it that while the right hon. Gentleman rejects the suggestion about meeting Mr. Khrushchev he agrees with the need to promote more trade with Russia? Will he give particular attention to the proposals which are now being made from Russia to give shipbuilding orders to this country in return for our taking crude oil? Will he give favourable consideration to this proposal?

The Prime Minister

Of course, we are trying to expand Anglo-Russian trade by every appropriate means and, indeed, it has considerably increased in recent years. Imports from Russia were £59 million in 1958 and £84 million last year. Exports to Russia have almost doubled, from £23 million to £43 million. One of the problems is payment, to which the hon. Gentleman has drawn attention. There are other Questions on this to my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade and I should prefer not to anticipate his answer.

Mr. P. Williams

Will my right hon. Friend agree that there is still considerable scope for further increasing our trade with Russia by a considerable amount? Will he give an undertaking that the Government will resist any political pressure to prevent us taking Russian oil in exchange?

The Prime Minister

Yes, Sir. This is a matter for considerable thought but there is no question that we must make a decision on what seems to us, on broad commercial grounds, to be best for Britain.

Mr. Skeet

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that Russia is dumping oil on the world market at 1½ dollars a barrel while charging her satellite countries over 3 dollars a barrel? Why should the free world take this oil when already it is faced with a saturated market?

The Prime Minister

I should prefer not to deal with that question separately. It is complicated. My right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade will be making a statement about it.