David Cameron has insisted he wants more commitments on British jobs and investment from Pfizer as the US pharmaceutical giant continues discussions about taking over UK firm AstraZeneca.
The Prime Minister described criticism of his handling of the proposed deal as “extraordinary” as he insisted he was not fully satisfied with Pfizer’s commitments so far, stating: “I want more.”
But Mr Cameron stressed the best way to deal with the potential takeover is to engage with both parties and try to get commitments from the US firm that it will keep jobs in the UK.
Amid fears that a takeover could lead to job losses in Britain, Business Secretary Vince Cable has not ruled out intervening in any bid by applying a public interest test.
But Mr Cameron would not commit to such a test when asked by Labour leader Ed Miliband to do so.
The PM also said it was “absolutely right” for Cabinet Secretary Sir Jeremy Heywood to engage with both companies as he answered a question from Tory David Rutley, who asked for stronger commitments on highly skilled AstraZeneca jobs in his Macclesfield constituency.
Replying to Mr Rutley during Prime Minister’s Questions, Mr Cameron said: “Our entire approach is based upon trying to secure the best possible deal in terms of jobs, investment and science.
“That is why I believe it was absolutely right to ask the Cabinet Secretary to engage with Pfizer, just as we’re engaging with AstraZeneca and I do find it extraordinary that we have been criticised for this.
“The commitments that have been made so far, and of course there is no offer on the table, are encouraging in terms of completing the Cambridge campus, making sure 20 per cent of the combined company’s total R&D workforce is in the UK going forward, and it specifically mentions substantial commercial manufacturing facilities in Macclesfield.
“It also goes on to say that because of the patent box that we have introduced the company can look at manufacturing more in the UK.
“But 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.”
In the earlier leaders’ clash, Mr Miliband said: “There is deep concern in the British business and science communities about the proposed takeover of AstraZeneca by Pfizer.
“The deal would have an impact for decades to come on British jobs, British investment, British exports and British science.
“The Business Secretary (Vince Cable) said yesterday he is ‘not ruling out intervention’. What type of intervention is under consideration by Government?”
Mr Cameron replied: “The most important intervention we can make is to back British jobs, British science, British R&D, British medicines and British technology.”