§ 16. Mr. Palmer
asked the Secretary of State for Trade what advice and assistance was given by his Department to British manufacturers in tendering for the nuclear plant now ordered by Iran from French firms.
§ Mr. Palmer
Is my right hon. Friend aware, however, that his Department appears to have completely underestimated the industrial potential of Iran, particularly in desalination, and that when the British trade delegation went to Iran five months ago—I think under the previous Government—it discussed everything except reactors? Has not a great opportunity been lost to this country? What steps is my right hon. Friend taking to see that such opportunities are not lost in future?
§ Mr. Shore
I believe that last September the head of the Iran power generation and transmission company was informed about the various types of reactors of which British manufacturers had experience. There was also, I believe, a promise to make available to the Iranians certain studies that the then Government were conducting about our own nuclear reactors. But as the House will know, and as my hon. Friend well knows, we have been reappraising our nuclear policy, and it is only as a result of the statement made by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Energy a few days ago that we have been able to announce our conclusions. I hope that this will make it much easier for us to go ahead with possible export orders.
§ Mr. Tom King
In view of the announcement of substantial orders being placed by Iran with France and the hesitant nature of the right hon. Gentleman's replies about what is going on, 18 may I ask him what he is doing to make sure that we get a fair share of the orders that looked possible under the previous Government and now seem to have disappeared?
§ Mr. Shore
One of the first and most important things was for the British Government to go firm in choosing a nuclear system. We have done this. I very much hope that we will join with the Canadians as there appears to be a very good possibility of pushing what I am sure will be a good reactor in our export drive.
§ Mr. Eldon Griffiths
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there will be general agreement on both sides of the House with what his hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, North-East (Mr. Palmer) has said, namely that Iran, a Right-wing Government, represents by any measure a great and growing market for British goods? Is he aware that before the Labour Government took office there was good reason to suppose that a useful proportion of the $4,000 million worth of orders recently placed by the Shah in France would come to this country? Will he also recognise that the two things that have done most damage to our prospects of securing these orders are, first, the actions of the Government in forcing British companies to break their contracts for arms supplies abroad and, secondly, the actions of certain trade unions in preventing goods that have been promised from Britain going abroad?
Mr. Ioan Evans
Does my right hon. Friend recall that when we left office in 1970 we had the highest surplus this country has ever had, which in three and a half years was transformed into 19 the highest-ever deficit under the last Government? Will he ignore what the previous administration did and carry on the good work?