HC Deb 05 May 1975 vol 891 cc1013-4
26. Mrs. Renée Short

asked the Secretary of State for Trade what priorities in Anglo-Soviet trade he will be discussing during his forthcoming visit to Moscow.

Mr. Shore

The main priorities will be to identify specific export opportunities on which British companies can concentrate their attention, and to agree a programme of trade promotional activities for the next 12 months.

Mrs. Short

In view of the need to develop our trading potential with other countries, I am sure that the whole House would like to wish my right hon. Friend well. However, will he take on board the opportunities for the construction industry, in that the Soviet Union is now anxious to build a large number of 1,000-bed hotels for the coming Olympics, which are to be held in the Soviet Union? Is he aware that French and Swedish con- struction firms already have contracts to build three of these large hotels in Moscow and Leningrad? Is it not time that some of the British firms showed some interest in these tenders?

Mr. Shore

I agree with my hon. Friend that there are many opportunities for fruitful and useful business with the Soviet Union. I have always taken the view that, considering the economic bases of our two countries, the level of trade was almost pathetically small, and certainly a good dealer smaller than our trade with Poland, for example. However, I shall be looking at all these matters. I have very much in mind what we can do to identify the areas where we can increase exports, and I shall certainly do all that I can to help to that end.

Sir Frederic Bennett

Will the right hon. Gentleman remind the House of the present figures for the balance of trade between the Soviet Union and this country? Is it favourable or otherwise? Will he also remind us of the last time when such trading has been favourable? As for these hotels being built in the Soviet Union, will the right hon. Gentleman tell us whether they are being built for cash or long-term credit?

Mr. Shore

I believe that the previous supplementary question referred to hotels being built by French companies. I cannot tell the hon. Gentleman what arrangements were made between the French and the Soviet Governments for financing these hotels. The hon. Gentleman is right to suggest that we have traditionally had an unfavourable balance of trade with the Soviet Union. It was of the order of £280 million in 1974.