Gordon Brown pledged today that the Government would do "everything we can" to make sure jobs are kept in Britain following the proposed takeover of Cadbury's.
The Prime Minister said assurances had been sought from Kraft about the US company's commitment to the Cadbury name, workforce and quality after its approach was recommended for approval.
But he was challenged by Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg over why the taxpayer-owned Royal Bank of Scotland was prepared to lend money to Kraft to fund the £11.9 billion takeover bid.
"When British taxpayers bailed out the banks, they would never have believed that their money would now be used to put British people out of work," Mr Clegg said.
"Isn't that just plain wrong?"
Philadelphia cheese maker Kraft yesterday announced the backing of the Cadbury board for a revised 840p per share offer in a move set to end the independent history of the British firm dating back to 1824.
During Prime Minister's Question Time, Labour's Tony Wright (Cannock Chase) said City Minister Lord Myners had recently said it was "becoming too easy for good British companies to be taken over by foreign predators".
He added: "Now that we have had the outrage of Cadbury's, do you agree?"
Mr Brown said Cadbury employs more than 5,000 people in the UK, adding: "It is a very important company for the future of this country.
"We are seeking assurance and have received information from Kraft about the importance they attach to the Cadbury workforce, to the Cadbury name and the Cadbury quality in the United Kingdom.
"We hope that the Kraft owners will make sure that Cadbury workers - the 5,500 - can retain their jobs and make sure that new investment goes into a product that is distinctly British and is sold throughout the world.
"So we will do everything we can to make sure that jobs and investment are maintained in Britain."
But a clearly angry Mr Clegg returned to the subject and said it was wrong for RBS to lend money to Kraft while British businesses were struggling to access credit.
"Last month (Business Secretary) Lord Mandelson declared that the Government would mount a huge opposition to Kraft's takeover of Cadbury's," he said.
"So why is it that Royal Bank of Scotland - which is owned by this Government - should now want to lend vast amounts of our money to Kraft to fund that takeover."
Mr Brown replied: "If you are really suggesting that the Government can step in and avoid any takeover that is taking place in this country and just do it overnight, and then tell a bank that it has got to deprive a particular company by Government diktat, then your liberal principles seem to have gone to the wall."
But Mr Clegg said there was "a simple principle at stake".
"There are tens of thousands of British companies crying out for that money to protect jobs and, instead, RBS wants to lend money to a multinational with a record of cutting jobs," he said.
"When British taxpayers bailed out the banks, they would never have believed that their money would now be used to put British people out of work. Isn't that just plain wrong."
Mr Brown hit back: "There is no government that is doing more to try and protect jobs and increase jobs in this country."
He highlighted official figures, released today, which showed that unemployment had fallen for the first time in almost two years and fewer people were claiming Jobseeker's Allowance.
"Unemployment is falling today as a result of the actions we have taken," the Prime Minister said.
"If we had taken the advice of your party, unemployment would be a great deal higher than it is now.
"You have got nothing to offer the debate on the economy at all."Reuse content