Deputy Prime Minister Shokhin, with whom I established contact at the first meeting of the British-Russian steering committee on trade and investment in Moscow last September, and I attended a second meeting of that committee this morning. We plan to continue our talks tomorrow.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that business with the Soviet Union, or Russia as it is today, is well worth pursuing in the long term due to its huge resources in gold and oil? Regarding of the short term, my right hon. Friend's meeting this morning with Aleksandr Nicolaivitch Shokhin, what does he think will be the short-term benefits that will accrue?
I must crave the indulgence of the House, Madam Speaker. I was so carried away by the full explanation of where I have been today that I missed the important part of the question.
Thank you, Madam Speaker. Does my right hon. Friend agree that it is worth pursuing long-term prospects with Russia given its huge reserves of gold and oil? Given his meeting this morning with Aleksandr Nicolaivitch Shokhin, what short-term benefits does he believe will accrue?
I think that my hon. Friend, who has a considerable knowledge of these matters and a facility for articulating them, is right to ask the House this question. The conclusion that I draw is that we have much to gain in both the long and the short term.
Does the President of the Board of Trade agree that one of the greatest success stories of British exports to the former Soviet Union—to Kazakhstan and Russia—is that of British Gas? British Gas is deeply concerned that if it is broken up, as some propose it should be, it will no longer be large enough to be a world player and to take British exports to those countries.
The hon. Gentleman will realise that these matters are currently before the Monopolies and Mergers Commission. It would therefore not be appropriate for me to comment at this stage.