MP Julian Huppert quizzed Business Secretary, Vince Cable yesterday (Tuesday, May 6) about the government’s position on the proposed bid by American pharmaceutical giant Pfizer for AstraZeneca.
Julian led a debate in the House of Commons questioning how the bid will affect the UK economy, employment and skills after being granted special permission by the Speaker of the House to raise the issue as an urgent question.
He fired a series of questions at the Business Secretary testing whether the government had given serious thought to the implications of this bid, which would be the biggest foreign takeover in UK history. He particularly raised questions on the effects in Cambridge, as AstraZeneca have announced plans to move their global HQ and R&D centre to the city bringing 2,000 jobs and resulting in a £330 million investment on site.
In his speech to the Commons Julian said “This would be the biggest ever takeover of a UK firm, and deserves careful scrutiny.”
He asked Vince Cable to tell Parliament “what has been learnt from the failures in the Kraft/Cadbury takeover, which did not safeguard UK jobs, and what powers he has under current legislation to intervene in this area?”
Responding Dr Cable made it clear that, “the life sciences industry is of paramount importance to the UK as part of the government’s industrial strategy, which is securing a long-term plan for key sectors where we are global leaders.
“We are committed to ensuring that we continue to be at the forefront of life sciences R&D, with high-quality jobs, manufacturing and decision making in the UK,” he said.
He went on to highlight that the government is “very alive to the national interest considerations here.”
Speaking after the debate, which attracted a large number of MPs, Julian said “Vince Cable was very clear about his commitment to Cambridge and the UK life science industry, but there are a number of issues that remain unclear and I will continue to push for more solid guarantees to secure our jobs and ensure R&D investment in Britain continues regardless of whether or not this takeover goes ahead.”