Signed contracts concluded within the terms of the Anglo-Soviet Agreement in 1975 total £188 million. Other major contracts are under negotiation and I have every expectation that more contracts will be concluded. It is not customary to identify the contracts placed under this agreement.
It is certainly true that many jobs depend on this trade. I must say, however, that I am disappointed about the speed with which trade under this agreement is being negotiated and I shall certainly look for a considerable improvement over the next few months.
Can the Secretary of State confirm that not one penny of profit will accrue to Britain under any contract placed as a result of this line of credit? Furthermore, can he deny that approximately 50 per cent. of the total production costs of anything that the Soviets purchase under this agreement will be footed by the British taxpayer?
I cannot confirm either of the facts which the hon. Gentleman suggests. These contracts bring employment to this country, and I do not think that the firms concerned will enter into them if they do not think it worth while to do so.
Is my right hon. Friend's wish for an improvement in this position likely to materialise now that the most recent five-year programme in the Soviet Union has started? Is it not necessary for us to make it as easy for our industrialists to sell things to the Soviet Union as other countries in Europe are doing, in an effort to build up trade and friendship with the Soviet Union?
I am sure that it is necessary, if we are to get business with the Soviet Union, for us to grant competitive credit terms. I hope that my hon. Friend is right in suggesting that perhaps further business will be coming under the five-year plan. Certainly we shall look for further business. We were assured by Mr. Gromyko last year that it was the intention of the Soviet Government to put business up to the limit of this agreement, and we are disappointed that nothing like that has yet been achieved.