HC Deb 22 July 1970 vol 804 cc509-10
2. Mrs. Renée Short

asked the President of the Board of Trade what action he intends to take to expand British trade with Eastern Europe.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade (Mr. Anthony Grant)

The expansion of our trade with Eastern Europe, as with other areas, depends primarily upon the efforts of individual British firms. The Government will continue to give them such assistance at home and abroad as we can.

Mrs. Short

That reply is not wholly satisfactory. Is the hon. Gentleman aware that his predecessor did a great deal to encourage expansion of trade with East European countries? In order to apprise himself of the great potential for capital goods and consumer goods in Eastern Europe, would the hon. Gentleman perhaps visit some of the East European capitals during the recess?

Mr. Grant

I am well aware of the hon. Lady's great interest in this matter and of what my predecessor did. Whether I shall be able to pay a visit during the recess remains to be seen, but I will bear in mind what the hon. Lady says.

3. Mrs. Renée Short

asked the President of the Board of Trade if he will now taken steps to set up an office of his department in East Berlin.

Mr. Anthony Grant

No, Sir. Since Her Majesty's Government do not recognise the East German régime, it is not possible for any Department of Her Majesty's Government to establish an office in East Berlin.

Mrs. Short

That, again, is a rather blind spot reply. As we have now signed a three-year trade agreement with this country which we say we do not recognise, and as there is great hope of trebling the trade in both directions in the very near future, does not the hon. Gentlemen think that the implementation of this proposal would be well worth while for British trading interests and British industry?

Mr. Grant

We cannot set up an official office while we do not recognise the East German régime. If the hon. Lady wants to pursue the point, she should table a Question to my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary. However, trade with East Germany has been increasing without an office. I know that the C.B.I. and the London Chamber of Commerce have been investigating the possibility of setting up a private office, and the results seem to be fairly encouraging.

Mr. Mason

As the hon. Gentleman knows, I was giving sympathetic consideration to encouraging, not necessarily the setting up of a Government office in East Berlin, but the C.B.I. and others to have a trade office there. If we are to get the maximum benefit from the agreement made by the C.B.I. and the East German authorities, is it not absolutely essential that we have an office there?

Mr. Grant

That is precisely one of the things which we shall discuss with the C.B.I. If industry considered that it would be useful to have a private office and that it would increase trade, then it would have our support.

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