HC Deb 15 December 1975 vol 902 cc951-2
13. Mrs. Renée Short

asked the Secretary of State for Trade what changes have taken place in Anglo-Soviet trade as a result of the agreement signed after the Prime Minister's visit to Moscow earlier in the year; and which industries are likely to benefit.

Mr. Shore

Our exports to the Soviet Union have increased in value by almost 100 per cent. this year compared with last year. My discussions with the Soviet Minister of Foreign Trade last week confirmed that there are good prospects for British companies in a wide range of industries, including, in particular, the chemical, petrochemical and agrochemical industries and the textile machinery industry.

Mrs. Short

I am sure that the whole House will be grateful to my right hon. Friend for the efforts that he is making in this area. I understand that the Chamber of Commerce delegation, on its return from Russia, confirmed the statement that he made this afternoon. Will he say what effect this increased trade, which we all very much welcome, is likely to have on West Midlands industries, particularly the engineering industry, which has received considerable blows latterly and in which unemployment is at a high level?

Mr. Shore

As my hon. Friend knows, it is in the area of electrical and mechanical machinery and engineering products generally that the Soviet demand is likely to be felt most, and it is in those areas of the country, including the Midlands, where we make engineering goods of all kinds that the benefit is likely to be felt. I emphasise again that the prospects are reasonably good. There has been a most welcome increase in our exports this past year.

Miss Fookes

Will the right hon. Gentleman say what was the original value that has increased by 100 per cent.? Will he also say whether he feels it is worth the risk of hundreds of so-called inspectors snooping round British factories?

Mr. Shore

If one compares exports during the 10 months from January to October 1974 with those for the 10 months from January to October 1975, one finds that the figure increased from £86 million to £170 million. In a sense, it is small in terms of total trade. I have always felt that the magnitude of our trade with the Soviet Union, given the size of our country and theirs, is far too small.

With regard to the hon. Lady's latter remark, the Soviet Union uses a fairly long-established system of purchase in this country. The system was used during the period when Conservative Members formed the Government but it was uncommented upon then, either by the hon. Lady or by many of her colleagues, and I find it odd that it should now become the occasion for a lot of sheer prejudice and abuse.

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