HC Deb 28 July 1975 vol 896 cc1267-8
3. Mr. Gwilym Roberts

asked the Secretary of State for Trade what steps he is taking to improve the volume of trade with the USSR; if he will seek to renegotiate the 1969 long-term trade agreement with the USSR before the end of September, with the view to increasing this level of trade; and if he will make a statement.

The Secretary of State for Trade and President of the Board of Trade (Mr. Peter Shore)

Following the meeting of the Anglo-Soviet Joint Commission, which I attended in May, discussions are continuing at official level on the implementation of the two long-term co-operation programmes and I hope to make a further visit to Moscow in September. Notice to terminate the 1969 trade agreement will be given before the end of September 1975. The 10-year agreement which I signed with the Soviet Deputy Premier in May 1974 and the credit agreement and co-operation programmes recently signed in Moscow by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister provide an adequate framework for extending our economic relations with the USSR.

Mr. Roberts

I appreciate everything that the Government are doing, but will my right hon. Friend accept the need to stimulate East-West trade in view of the recession in the West? Will he take this opportunity of dissociating himself and the Government from the fanatical cold war pose adopted by the Leader of the Opposition during the weekend?

Mr. Shore

I have certainly no fanatical cold war sentiments. I hope, however, that I have a realistic and determined approach towards British-Soviet trade. I am most anxious to encourage it in every way possible. Exports in the first half of this year to the Soviet Union are up 100 per cent. in value over the first half of last year.

Mr. Biggs-Davison

Dissociating myself from the hysterical observation of the hon. Member for Cannock (Mr. Roberts) on the objective speech of my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition about the realities as opposed to the wishful thinking of international relations, may I ask the Minister how, apart from the volume of trade, the balance is getting on?

Mr. Shore

The balance is improving considerably, because whereas our imports from the Soviet Union have remained stable on the whole, our exports have increased in the way I have described. Therefore, the gap is significantly closed.

Mr. Cant

In view of the current difficulties of the motor car industry in the West Midlands, can my right hon. Friend say whether the rumours are true that such cars as the Polski Fiat and the Soviet Lada are being imported into this country at much-subsidised prices?

Mr. Shore

No official complaints of that kind have reached me, but if my hon. Friend has any information that he wants to bring to my attention I shall certainly look at it.

Mr. Michael Marshall

Will the right Gentleman confirm that, while we all accept in principle the value of trade with Russia, it would be extremely dangerous for us to depend on that country for our imports of chrome ore? Therefore, will the right hon. Gentleman take the opportunity of welcoming the decision of the British Steel Corporation to invest in South Africa in chrome ore?

Mr. Shore

It is not for me to comment on a particular deal, but it is clearly in the interests of Britain to have a supply of chrome ore, and if possible a diversified supply.