Ed Miliband: Inquiry needed to ensure AstraZeneca takeover by Pfizer is in 'national interest'

The Labour leader calls the assurances made by the American pharmaceutical giant "pretty weak"

Ed Miliband has called for an inquiry into the proposed takeover of British pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca by American drugs giants Pfizer, to assess whether the deal will have a national benefit.

Speaking on The Andrew Marr show, the Labour leader said that “no other country in the world would wave the bid through,” and that there needed to be detailed assessments to ensure the deal, which would be the biggest takeover of a British company by a foreign bidder, would benefit British citizens.

He also questioned Pfizer’s history of business deals in Britain, calling their record “dubious” and saying that the assurances they had given to the government were “pretty weak.”

The comments come in the week that Miliband wrote a letter to the Prime Minister accusing the government of being “cheerleaders” to the deal and asking him to ensure that “substantive assessments” would be made to make sure that 20% of the company’s research and development jobs would remain in Britain.

In the letter he said: “I am strongly of the view that, when it comes to such a strategically important part of UK PLC, we need a more substantive assessment of whether this takeover is in the national economic interest before the UK government allows itself to be seen to be supporting it."

"In this particular bid, the stakes could not be much higher. Despite those high stakes, the impression created in recent days has been of a government cheerleading for this deal on the basis of a short letter with inadequate assurances."

On Friday, AstraZeneca rejected a second bid from Pfizer, which was said to be in the region of £63 billion.

In 2002, the Labour government put in place a public interest test that would make it possible for government to block takeovers if it was felt that they would have a negative impact on the country.

This would be judged on the grounds of media plurality, national security or financial stability.

However, with the Pfizer takeover deal in mind, Miliband wants the government to expand the reasons for vetoing a takeover to include strategic importance and the impact it might have on Britain’s science and research sector.

Despite Pfizer’s chief executive, Ian Read, assuring David Cameron that job’s would remain in the UK and a “substantial” research centre would be developed at Cambridge University, Miliband believes that if AstraZeneca, which currently employs 6,700 workers in Britain, was sold to Pfizer it could have a major effect, not only on the number of research and development jobs available, but also the economic standing of Britain in the pharmaceutical industry.

Speaking on the Andrew Marr show, he said: "The prime minister, rather than being that cheerleader for this takeover with paper-thin assurances, should be actually championing British jobs and a British success story that is AstraZeneca – investing in research and development, a crucial part of our science base."

According to sources, the Prime Minister has maintained that the government would remain neutral when it came to the deal.

In reaction to Miliband’s comments today a No 10 spokesman said: "The government isn't cheerleading for Pfizer. It is fighting for British jobs and British science. By suggesting otherwise, Ed Miliband is putting politics before the national interest and undermining that position. We engaged early with both companies precisely to avoid previous governments' failures in these types of situation."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Digital Communications Manager

£25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A 6-month part-time contract (24 hours a...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Vehicle Inspectors / Purchasers

£20000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Trainee Vehicle Inspectors / Pu...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Vehicle Broker

£12000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Trainee Vehicle Broker is req...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service / Data Capture / Telesales

£12000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Day In a Page

Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific