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Moscow (Prime Minister's Visit)

Volume 886: debated on Tuesday 11 February 1975

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asked the Prime Minister whether he will seek to arrange for the Secretary of State for Industry to accompany him on his visit to Moscow.

Why not? Does the Prime Minister not think it advisable that the Secretary of State for Industry should study at first hand the effect of State ownership on manufacturing industry and on the freedom of choice of the work force? Would he not also like his right hon. Friend to see how collective responsibility works in the Kremlin?

I am very interested in the study that the hon. Member has clearly given to these questions. I would only say to him that never have the Communitsts and their allies in this country had more encouragement than exactly one year ago today, with the policies—which I am sure the hon. Member supported at the time—on which the Conservative Government went to the polls, and which of course some members of that Conservative Government are now trying to pretend they knew nothing about.

Leaving aside the hon. Member's snide comments, will my right hon. Friend, on his forthcoming visit, bear very much in mind the fact that there are considerable opportunities for joint British-Soviet industrial co-operation and see what he can do to further them?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. The whole House, I think—this was the position of the previous Government; the right hon. Member for Worcester (Mr. Walker) was concerned with the policy—wants to see a great increase and improvement, and somewhat more balance, in trade between Britain and the Soviet Union. Since I negotiated the first-ever trade agreement with them since the war, which was the basis of all this, I have spent a great deal of my time on these matters. My hon. Friend will be glad to know that last week I met all the leading business men and firms who are themselves trying to expand their trade with the Soviet Union.

It is nice to be able to unite the Labour Party.

Will the right hon. Gentleman think again about this matter and follow the policy of self-sacrifice suggested by my hon. Friend and take his right hon. Friend with him to Moscow, so that his right hon. Friend can give the Russians a refresher course in Marxist policies?

I shall, of course, be delighted next week to convey to the Soviet Government what the right hon. Gentleman has said. I have no doubt that they will judge it in relation to their assessment of the authority which the right hon. Gentleman commands within this House and within his party. Knowing them, in many matters with which I have been concerned, to be prepared to show compassion, I am sure that, should things go wrong for the right hon. Gentleman today—which I do not for a moment expect—the Russians will be prepared to intercede should there be any question of his being sent to the Tory salt mines as a result.