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Anglo-Soviet Trading

Volume 499: debated on Thursday 24 April 1952

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asked the President of the Board of Trade what approaches have been made, and over how long a period, by his Department to the Soviet Trade Delegation in London to buy, with the sterling accumulated by the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics in this country, British textiles and other consumer goods.

My Department have taken every opportunity in the course of the last 15 months to impress upon the Russians, through their Trade Delegation in London, the desirability of their buying textiles and other consumer goods from the United Kingdom, and in particular submitted a list of such goods to the Delegation in September last. Again, my hon. Friend the Secretary for Overseas Trade at the March session of the Economic Commission for Europe, urged the Eastern European Governments represented to import more of these goods, especially textiles, from Western Europe. Finally, I myself wrote recently to the head of the Soviet Trade Delegation in connection with the reports of the Moscow Economic Conference asking whether he was in fact ready to enter into contracts and offering the assistance of my Department.

Will my right hon. Friend bring his answer to the notice of those starry-eyed innocents who believe that by going to Moscow they can get business which cannot be got from the Soviet Trade Delegation here, and does he agree that the Russians do not want cotton textiles at all, but only certain types of woollen textiles?

My information on the latter point is that the demand from the Russians, in so far as it exists, is for woollen rather than for cotton textiles.

Is it in order, Mr. Speaker, for the hon. Member opposite to refer to the hon. Member for Skipton (Mr. Drayson) as a "starry-eyed innocent"?

In view of the alleged success of the unorthodox trade delegation to Russia, would the right hon. Gentleman be prepared, if means could be found to free these gentlemen from their duties here, to send them on a world tour in order to help in the rescue of decadent capitalism?