David Cameron demands more assurances from Pfizer

David Cameron has insisted US pharmaceutical giant Pfizer must provide more assurances about its commitment to Britain

Dan Kitwood/PA Wire Pfizer
Pfizer

David Cameron has insisted US pharmaceutical giant Pfizer must provide more assurances about its commitment to Britain amid concerns over its takeover bid for AstraZeneca.

The Prime Minister said the UK benefits “massively” from foreign investment, and warned that the row must not trigger a retreat to protectionism.

But he indicated that the American firm had yet to convince him that the purchase would be in the national interest.

Answering questions in the Commons, Mr Cameron said the commitments made so far – including retaining at least 20% of the research and development workforce in the UK – were encouraging.

“Let me be absolutely clear, I’m not satisfied, I want more.

“But the way to get more is to engage, not to stand up and play party politics,” he said.

“The more we can do to strengthen the assurances, the better.”

AstraZeneca has so far resisted approaches from its rival, but executives have not given up hope of completing a £60bn-plus deal – potentially the biggest ever foreign takeover of a British company.

Fears have been raised that resulting cost-cutting could cause the loss of thousands of highly-skilled jobs and undermine the UK’s science base.

Mr Cameron dismissed suggestions from Labour leader Ed Miliband that he was “cheerleading” for the deal by tasking the Cabinet Secretary and ministers to discuss the situation with both companies.

He said he agreed with the position taken by Liberal Democrat Business Secretary Vince Cable, who has refused to rule out intervening to block a formal bid.

“The most important intervention we can make is to back British jobs, British science, British R&D, British medicines and British technology,” Mr Cameron said.

“We know what happens when you do not engage ...

“We are fighting for British science and I just think it is a pity that he is trying to play politics rather than backing the British national interest.

“I will judge all these things about does it expand British jobs, British investment, British science?”

The Prime Minister said the country must not close its doors to foreign investors. “Britain benefits massively from being open to investment. Nissan is now producing more cars than the whole of Italy,” he said.

“Jaguar Land Rover, under Indian ownership, has created 9,000 jobs in the West Midlands since I became Prime Minister. Vodafone and indeed AstraZeneca have benefited from the backing of an open country to go out and build and buy businesses around the world.

“There is more inward investment into Britain today than the rest of the European Union combined. Don’t let’s put that at risk.”

Labour is pressing for changes to the 2002 Enterprise Act to ensure that any takeover of AstraZeneca is subjected to a public interest test.

Mr Miliband offered the Prime Minister Labour’s support in putting the changes into effect. Under the Act, the Government can currently intervene on mergers or takeovers on the grounds of national security, media plurality or financial stability.

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