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Trade with U.S.S.R.

Oral Answers to Questions — Industry, Trade and Regional Development – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 23rd July 1964.

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Photo of Commander Anthony Courtney Commander Anthony Courtney , Harrow East 12:00 am, 23rd July 1964

asked the Secretary of State for Industry, Trade and Regional Development, if he will publish the specific written assurance he has received from the Soviet Minister of Foreign Trade regarding the correction of the present imbalance of trade between the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and the United Kingdom; and why this has not been included in Command Paper No. 2402 concerning Prolongation of the Anglo-Soviet Agreement of 1959.

Photo of Mr Edward Heath Mr Edward Heath , Bexley

I informed Mr. Patolichev of the concern of the United Kingdom at the serious imbalance in the trade between our two countries during the term of the 1959 Anglo-Soviet Trade Agreement. Accordingly, I asked Mr. Patolichev to continue to take the necessary measures to increase the scale of Russian purchases of United Kingdom goods for cash or on normal suppliers' credit in relation to the volume of United Kingdom purchases from the Soviet Union so as to achieve a much closer balance in the trade between our two countries. In his reply, Mr. Patolichev confirmed that the competent Soviet authorities would act in accordance with my request.

This exchange was not included in the White Paper because it did not form part of the formal documents relating to the Prolongation of the Anglo-Soviet Trade Agreement.

Photo of Commander Anthony Courtney Commander Anthony Courtney , Harrow East

Is my right hon. Friend aware that there is a general impression that such a written undertaking was given, and that I am disappointed to hear that the undertaking was only a verbal one? Does he appreciate that it is the impression of some of us that in dealing with Russia he is perhaps unaware of the strength of some of the cards in his hand which do not always extend only to the narrow field of trade statistics?

Photo of Mr Edward Heath Mr Edward Heath , Bexley

This is a written undertaking. It is not only a verbal undertaking, but a written one. It is very clear. We have also the Anglo-Soviet Trade Agreement.

Photo of Mr Kenneth Thompson Mr Kenneth Thompson , Liverpool, Walton

Is my right hon. Friend aware that there may be great possibilities of further trade in these quarters if we continue to be ready to look at the restrictive list of goods and keep it constantly up to date so that without offending our allies, we are able to take advantage of such trade opportunities as occur?

Photo of Mr Edward Heath Mr Edward Heath , Bexley

We do keep this list under constant review, and there are frequent conferences between the allies to review the whole list.

Photo of Mr Douglas Jay Mr Douglas Jay , Battersea North

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that trade with the Soviet Union partly depends on the state of the restrictive list, and is he sure that the classification is realistic in present-day conditions?

Photo of Mr Edward Heath Mr Edward Heath , Bexley

I think that, broadly speaking, they are realistic, but the plain fact is that there is scope for increased trade quite apart from the list, and this is agreed both by the Soviet Union and ourselves.

Photo of Commander Anthony Courtney Commander Anthony Courtney , Harrow East

asked the Secretary of State for Industry, Trade and Regional Development why the quota for Soviet earthenware and china to be imported into the United Kingdom during the current year is four times the value of the corresponding quota for British exports to the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, contrary to Article 4(1) of the existing trade agreement with the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.

Photo of Mr Edward Heath Mr Edward Heath , Bexley

Article 4(1) of the Anglo-Soviet Trade Agreement provides that the facilities for the exchange of consumer goods shall be balanced. There is no obligation nor need to balance the quotas for individual goods. The individual quotas depend on the desire of one country to export the goods concerned and the willingness of the other to accept them.

Photo of Commander Anthony Courtney Commander Anthony Courtney , Harrow East

Surely my right hon. Friend will agree that china and earthenware are traditional exports of the United Kingdom, while the same cannot be said of the U.S.S.R. countries? Can my right hon. Friend explain why Russia and East Europe is the one remaining area for which an export council has not yet been formed?

Photo of Mr Edward Heath Mr Edward Heath , Bexley

To answer the second part of my hon. and gallant Friend's supplementary question, the reason is that trading in the Eastern Socialist countries is State trading, so that decisions are made by the machinery of Government and cannot be influenced by export councils working on individual buyers. As for the first part of his supplementary question, if I were to follow the implication of my hon. and gallant Friend's suggestion this would lead to a limitation of trade with the Eastern Socialist countries and not to the expansion that he was earlier pressing on me.

Photo of Sir Barnett Stross Sir Barnett Stross , Stoke-on-Trent Central

Is the Minister aware that our china and earthenware workers are the most skilled there are, and that for many years the Soviet Union has been keen to import some of them to improve its own industry, but that we have not been able to allow the Russians to have them?

Photo of Mr Edward Heath Mr Edward Heath , Bexley

I do not think that that is a question for me.