HC Deb 17 December 1979 vol 976 cc17-8
21. Mr. Chapman

asked the Secretary of State for Trade what was the total value of exports to the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and the total value of imports from that country for the last 12 months for which figures are available.

Mr. Parkinson

For the period November 1978 to October 1979 the total value of our exports to the Soviet Union was £433 million. Our imports from that country for the same period were £842 million.

Mr. Chapman

I recognise that the proportion of 2: 1 has been consistent over the years. I recognise also that 30 per cent. of our imports consist of oil and 40 per cent. of diamonds. Will my hon. Friend give an assurance that there will be a greater resolve by the Government to balance the trade between the two countries, even if that means giving an assurance that we shall refuse to take any oil imports from the USSR after we become oil sufficient?

Mr. Parkinson

Most of the items that we import from the Soviet Union are those that we need; for example, raw materials for which there are, perhaps, no other sources of supply. A substantial part of the trade is in diamonds and furs, which are subsequently re-exported. I want to see our exports to the Soviet Union increased. There is scope for that. I do not believe that the way forward is to restrict the importation of items that we need.

Mr. Emery

Will my hon. Friend tell the House how much of the credit that was negotiated by the Labour Government for Russia is still outstanding? Will it continue for long? Would it not be much more useful to extend credit—perhaps on not quite such favourable terms—to British Commonwealth and Third world nations to encourage them to buy from Britain?

Mr. Parkinson

About £400 million of that line of credit is still available. The agreement ends in about two months' time. I prefer not to comment on the third part of my hon. Friend's question. Britain needs to trade wherever it can. Our trade with other countries implies neither approval nor disapproval of their politics.

Mr. Robert Atkins

At this festive time, may I ask my hon. Friend whether we need Russian Christmas cards?

Mr. Parkinson

I congratulate my hon. Friend on bringing the problem to the notice of the House and ensuring that the House retains its interest in it. I, like him, was staggered by the increased number of Russian imports in that trade. As I said in reply to an earlier question, if the industry feels that there is an antidumping case to be made—I know that it does—my Department is available to help with advice about processing that case.

Mr. Skinner

Does acceptance of trade with the Soviet Union give it any credibility in the eyes of the Government?

Mr. Parkinson

I am sure that the hon. Gentleman understands his question, but I do not.

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