HC Deb 12 December 1977 vol 941 cc5-6
5. Mr. Goodlad

asked the Secretary of State for Trade when he next plans to discuss the subject of freight rates with the Soviet authorities.

Mr. Clinton Davis

Until the Soviet authorities have demonstrated their willingness to make progress towards resolving current practical problems, I see no point in engaging in any further ministerial discussion with the Soviet Government.

Mr. Goodlad

Is the Minister aware that great concern is felt by the shipping community here that he should make further representations to the Soviet authorities at the earliest possible opportunity? Will he tell the House when discussions with his EEC counterparts on an appropriate Western response to the Soviet behaviour will be established, and what he hopes that response will be?

Mr. Davis

I do not believe that that is the view of British shipping interests in this country. They are well aware that I met the Soviet Minister in Moscow, and it was clear that no progress had been made in a number of important issues which tested the good faith of the Soviet Government in seeking to resolve problems. The next move must be in the hands of the Soviet Government.

As regards the EEC, I spoke at the Council of Ministers on this issue on 27th October and we hope that progress will be made early in the new year—perhaps at the next meeting, which I hope will take place in March.

Sir J. Langford-Holt

Is it not clear that, while this delay is taking place, the Soviet Government are continuing to operate artificially low dumping rates for their shipping?

Mr. Davis

Of course that is true, and it is important that we should be able to co-ordinate a strategy. It is of little use seeking to exercise unilateral action in a situation of this kind. That is why I and the German Minister in particular have made an appeal at the EEC to try to arrive at a co-ordinated strategy at the earliest opportunity.

14. Mr. David Hunt

asked the Secretary of State for Trade what positive steps he has taken to protect British shipping from the threat posed by the Soviet merchant fleet.

Mr. Clinton Davis

I have urged our EEC partners to consider proposals for co-ordinated defensive measures.

Mr. Hunt

Is the Minister aware that there is strong support for his move to seek prompt action against the Russians through the EEC? Although earlier today he suggested that he expected prompt action by the Commission, is he aware that it is talking of a period of 12 months for consultation? Will he therefore make sure that the Commission treats this problem with the urgency that it deserves?

Mr. Davis

I certainly have not been advised that the Commission contemplated taking 12 months. That would not be in the interests of the United Kingdom. I should hope for urgent consideration of this matter. I hope that even now, at this stage, the Soviet Union will show a preparedness to arrive at a reasonable accommodation rather than to engage in confrontation.

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