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Ussr (Credit)

Volume 928: debated on Monday 21 March 1977

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asked the Secretary of State for Trade how much of the Anglo-Soviet line of credit of £950 million arranged in 1975 has been taken up at the lastest available date; and if he will make a statement.


asked the Secretary of State for Trade what major contracts have been secured by British companies for the supply of goods or equipment to the USSR under the £1,000 million line of credit negotiated in 1975; and what is the aggregate total value of these contracts.

Signed contracts concluded within the terms of the Anglo-Soviet Agreement in 1975 total £188 million. Other major contracts are under negotiation and I have every expectation that more contracts will be concluded. It is not customary to identify the contracts placed under this agreement.

Is the Secretary of State aware that the distinguished Soviet exile Andrei Amalrik has made the point that, by transferring resources to the Soviet Union by means of generous credits of this kind, the West is helping the Soviet Union to maintain its police State?

We are simply competing with credits given by other Western countries. It is necessary to do so if we are to get business with the Soviet Union, and it is our wish to build up trade with the Soviet Union. That seems to us to be the right objective.

Is my right hon Friend aware that these figures show how important trade is with the Soviet Union and how many jobs depend on the expansion and development of that trade?

It is certainly true that many jobs depend on this trade. I must say, however, that I am disappointed about the speed with which trade under this agreement is being negotiated and I shall certainly look for a considerable improvement over the next few months.

Can the Secretary of State confirm that not one penny of profit will accrue to Britain under any contract placed as a result of this line of credit? Furthermore, can he deny that approximately 50 per cent. of the total production costs of anything that the Soviets purchase under this agreement will be footed by the British taxpayer?

I cannot confirm either of the facts which the hon. Gentleman suggests. These contracts bring employment to this country, and I do not think that the firms concerned will enter into them if they do not think it worth while to do so.

Is my right hon. Friend's wish for an improvement in this position likely to materialise now that the most recent five-year programme in the Soviet Union has started? Is it not necessary for us to make it as easy for our industrialists to sell things to the Soviet Union as other countries in Europe are doing, in an effort to build up trade and friendship with the Soviet Union?

I am sure that it is necessary, if we are to get business with the Soviet Union, for us to grant competitive credit terms. I hope that my hon. Friend is right in suggesting that perhaps further business will be coming under the five-year plan. Certainly we shall look for further business. We were assured by Mr. Gromyko last year that it was the intention of the Soviet Government to put business up to the limit of this agreement, and we are disappointed that nothing like that has yet been achieved.