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Volume 886: debated on Monday 17 February 1975

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asked the Secretary of State for Trade if he will pay an official visit to the USSR.

I plan to visit the Soviet Union in May this year for the fourth meeting of the Anglo-Soviet Joint Commission.

I thank my right hon. Friend for his reply. May I suggest that he tries to go a little earlier in view of the success of the Prime Minister's mission, which ends today, and in view of the fact that the expanding trade with the USSR which is available to us would go a long way to offsetting our appalling trade deficit with the Common Market? Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that Britain is now about seventh in order with the Soviet Union whereas we used to be first among all the Western European countries—a position now held by West Germany?

Our trade with the Soviet Union has been at a regrettably low level for a long time, considering the size of its industrial base and the size of our industrial base. Like my hon. Friend, I very much welcome the obvious success which my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has enjoyed in his visit to Moscow. Whether that should incite me to visit Moscow ahead of the Joint Commission is a separate matter. A great deal of work has been done and we shall follow it up as necessary. However, I have definitely in mind the Joint Commission meeting in May.

When the right hon. Gentleman goes to Moscow, will he correct the impression given by the Prime Minister during the playing of the national anthems and take off his hat and not keep it on, which the Prime Minister did, as we saw on television last night?

I cannot comment on the incident because I did not see it. However, I think that the hon. Gentleman's intervention was extraordinary and rather unworthy.