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Ussr

Volume 894: debated on Thursday 26 June 1975

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Q2.

asked the Prime Minister if he will pay another official visit to Moscow.

In that case will the Prime Minister, with his well-known talent for renegotiation, seek to renegotiate the Anglo-Russian trade agreement? Is he aware that the massive extension of credits at cheap rates and the pledges to take imports from Russia in competition with home production are thought by many to be damaging to our interests? Will he submit the results of the last Anglo-Russian trade agreement to an impartial investigation to see whether it was in our favour or not?

I do not agree with the hon. Gentleman, though I know that he made the point in a Question to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade earlier this week. I explained at the time of the signature, when I reported to the House, that what was being done on credits was exactly what was being done by other European countries in competition with us—for example, France, Italy and Germany. We now have prospects of a very significant increase in trade and, therefore, in jobs as a result of this agreement. I am sure the hon. Gentleman will be delighted to know that since it was signed I have had a recent visit from Mr. Gvishianihe is very important in these matters in the Soviet Union—who expressed his satisfaction with the reaction of British firms, which welcomed it, and also said that the Russian trade corporations are placing bigger orders. He believed that the trade arising from that agreement will be much bigger than was contemplated in February. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will welcome the creation of the jobs involved.

Will the Prime Minister back the holding of a summit conference next month as it is now supported by West Germany and France in view of the concession made by Russia over the advance notice of military manoeuvres? Secondly, will he support the American plan for a reduction in the tactical nuclear weapons stored in Europe in exchange for a reduction in Warsaw Pact conventional forces and the Soviet plan for a 17 per cent. reduction on both sides by 1977, as both proposals seem very sensible to some of us?

In general I certainly agree with my hon. Friend. We made clear, indeed before the events described by my hon. Friend, that we were anxious to have a meeting next month. I said—it was in the communiqué in Moscow in February—that there were still a lot of difficult problems to be overcome. They have substantially, but not all, been overcome, not least by the very close arrangements in Geneva between the British and Soviet delegations where we have been speaking for some of our allies and they for theirs. Therefore, I am hopeful that the meeting will take place next month. But there are one or two problems, and one is about the advance notification of military movements.

We certainly support the American proposal, and I am glad that my hon. Friend is lending his support to it. But we are a little disappointed, though I do not think that it will affect the timing of the conference, that more progress is not being made in Vienna on mutual balanced force reductions. I think that the House would like to see more progress on that issue, but it is not one of the issues for Helsinki.

In view of what the Prime Minister said about his disappointment over Vienna, and while in no way wishing to move away from his policy of détente, may I ask him to assure the House that, with our European partners, he will take great care over the safeguarding our essential interests and the maintenance of sufficient forces so to do, including free access to the raw materials on which our whole economy is based?

Yes, I agree. The right hon. Gentleman will be aware that, as I told the House, I stressed both points, the raw materials point and the other, at the recent NATO conference.

I take issue with the right hon. Gentleman about consultation with our European partners. This is a NATO matter. It is in consultation with our American partners as well. In the NATO discussions I highlighted the problems of MBFR, where I do not believe we are making sufficiently satisfactory progress. A lot of progress has been made on most of the other matters affecting the conference on security and co-operation, but we want to see still more progress made on one or two outstanding questions so that we can attend the conference next month.