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Volume 930: debated on Friday 29 April 1977

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asked the Secretary of State for Trade what progress has been made in fulfilling the long-term programme for the development of economic and industrial co-operation between the United Kingdom and the USSR; and what effect it has had on the balance of payments.

Since the signature of the Long-Term Economic and Industrial Programme with the Soviet Union in February 1975 there have been negotiations between British companies and Soviet organisations on many of the items in the programme, leading to the signature of some major contracts—for example, the contracts for forging and manipulating machinery won by Davy Loewy in February and April 1976, valued at nearly £25 million, and the contract for a high density polyethylene plant awarded to Constructors John Brown in February of this year valued at over £46 million. Other negotiations for major contracts within the co-operation programme are being actively pursued by a number of British companies.Some other major contracts have meanwhile been concluded for items not in the co-operation programme, notably the contract awarded last December to the British consortium Coberrow Ltd. for gas pumps, valued at over £87 million.In all, contracts worth over £188 million have been awarded to British companies since February 1975 within the terms of the credit agreement concluded that month. Of this almost £174 million represents United Kingdom content.Although our exports to the Soviet Union increased from £110 million in 1974 to about £240 million last year, representing an estimated 50 per cent increase in volume, I am still not satisfied with the level of business which we are winning in the Soviet Union. My right hon. Friend intends to press the Russians for the early conclusion of further contracts with British firms when he visits Moscow next month for the annual meeting of the British-Soviet Joint Commission.