HC Deb 27 July 1964 vol 699 cc994-8
28. Mr. Emrys Hughes

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs to what extent during his visit to Moscow he proposes to discuss plans for additional trade between Great Britain and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.

Mr. R. A. Butler

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Industry, Trade and Regional Development negotiated the prolongation of the Anglo-Soviet Trade Agreement, and obtained from Mr. Patolichev an assurance concerning a closer balance in the trade between our two countries. The increased quotas for the exchange of consumer goods also recently agreed provide a useful basis for such an expansion. I shall naturally make known Her Majesty's Government's interest in increasing trade between this country and the Soviet Union.

Mr. Hughes

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that we are all delighted that he is going to Moscow, but we hope that he will not go so far in extravagant praise of the achievements of Communism as did the former Prime Minister and so embarrass us all? Now that I.C.I. is investing £50 million in a factory in the Soviet Union and is no longer scared of Communism, can we take it that the right hon. Gentleman will do his utmost to secure a greater measure of trade relations between us?

Mr. Butler

It is the Government's policy to improve trade and to advance credit.

Commander Courtney

Can my right hon. Friend explain why, for five years in succession, the Soviet Government have failed to implement Article 8 of the current Trade Agreement, which allows for the negotiation of a treaty of commerce and navigation to replace the temporary Treaty of Commerce and Navigation of 1934? Would it not be as well to mention these things to the Soviet Government?

Mr. Butler

I am obliged to my hon. and gallant Friend. I will certainly mention them.

Mr. Hector Hughes

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that one amazing trade phenomenon is that Russian ships come regularly to the port of Aberdeen and discharge cargo but leave again without taking on cargo—indeed, without buying anything, not even Scotch whisky? Will the right hon. Gentleman look into that to see that justice is done?

Mr. Butler

This point was raised in the talks between my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Industry and Trade and Mr. Patolichev. We said that we wanted a bigger share of trade with the Soviet Union. Mr. Patolichev undertook to see whether this matter could not be remedied.

29. Mr. Emrys Hughes

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what proposals he intends making during his conversations in Moscow to protect the interests of British investors in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.

Mr. R. A. Butler

If the hon. Gentleman is referring to firms who extend credit to the Soviet Union in the course of trade, there are already arrangements in existence for them to obtain cover from the Export Credits Guarantee Department. These arrangements are perfectly satisfactory and I therefore see no reason to raise the issue in Moscow.

Mr. Hughes

Will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that I am a small capitalist in the Soviet Union, having a small deposit in the Moscow Bank? It is in roubles and I cannot get it out, but I draw a modest rate of 3 per cent. and it is, I believe, invested in a sound economy. Can we take it that the right hon. Gentleman will do everything possible to better relations between our two countries so that not only small investors like myself but big investors like I.C.I. will prosper as a result?

Mr. Butler

I assure the hon. Gentleman that I shall be glad to take charge of negotiations on his behalf if he would see me after Question Time.

Mr. Gibson-Watt

Is it not a novel idea that the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) should be a capitalist, however small? Will my right hon. Friend make further inquiries when in Moscow about the possibility of more trade in agricultural machinery and in livestock which was given such a favourable augury at the recent Moscow Exhibition?

Mr. Butler

Yes, Sir. This visit will be a splendid follow-up to the exhibition, which was such a success. I also propose to discuss the extension of common inquiry into agricultural research with my opposite number.

Mr. Snow

The right hon. Gentleman mentioned the Export Credits Guarantee Department. Is he satisfied that political directives between the Foreign Office and the Board of Trade are kept up to date? Is he aware, for instance, that recently I protested at the high rates in respect of China and that these rates were subsequently reduced? There seems reason to believe that the E.C.G.D. is becoming rather more of a political instrument than was intended.

Mr. Butler

We are always ready to improve the facilities offered. If the hon. Gentleman has any points that he would like to put, I would be glad to pass them on to my right hon. Friend.

30. Mr. Swingler

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he will discuss with Mr. Khrushchev the organisation by international agreement of nuclear-free zones and zones of disengagement on the basis of equivalent withdrawals of armed forces, or guarantees not to supply arms and seek bases, by East and West in as many areas of the world as possible; and if he will endeavour to prepare joint proposals on these lines to be put before the Geneva Conference.

Mr. R. A. Butler

I hope to discuss with the Soviet leaders a wide range of questions concerning international security, but I cannot anticipate the details of these discussions or their outcome.

Mr. Swingler

Will the right hon. Gentleman respond to the idea of discussing specifically with Mr. Khrushchev the idea of nuclear-free zones? If the right hon. Gentleman, like most Foreign Secretaries, is genuinely opposed to the dissemination of nuclear weapons, would he not put forward specific proposals to the Soviet Government along the lines of those emanating from the Polish Government to try to arrive at some joint proposals to put to the Geneva Conference and to make some progress?

Mr. Butler

I have already had notice that these matters will be raised from the Soviet side, and we shall be only too glad to consider them. The conditions on which we could consider them were stated by my right hon. Friend the Minister of State as lately as 25th November in answer to the hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Mr. Swingler). Subject to these conditions, I think that we might be able to have satisfactory discussions.

Mr. P. Noel-Baker

Since it is now nine years since Lord Avon first put forward proposals for demilitarisation, to some degree, of Central Europe, will not the right hon. Gentleman now make an attempt to reassess whether our conditions are really necessary and whether a practical solution could not be found?

Mr. Butler

I think that will depend on the nature of the interchanges I have.

Mr. M. Foot

Can the right hon. Gentleman give what he called earlier an unqualified assurance that the British Government have now departed from the hostile attitude they originally took towards the Rapacki proposals?

Mr. Butler

I do not think that the Government take a hostile attitude to them. They take up an attitude in concert with our allies of criticism of certain aspects of Mr. Rapacki's proposals. That is all.