Shadow business secretary Chuka Umunna clashed with science minister David Willetts this morning over Pfizer’s potential purchase of AstraZeneca.
The Labour MP expressed his concern over the group’s “very poor record on previous acquisitions” and questioned whether a takeover would be best for Britain.
He told Radio 4′s Today Programme: “There is grave concern in the business community and in the sector about this transaction. I have yet to speak to anybody in the sector that has anything other than reservations about this deal.”
Willetts pointed out that the government has been having “very tough conversations” with Pfizer aimed at securing UK-based researched and jobs.
“I think Pfizer have been picking up very clearly those messages,” he said.
However, Umunna voiced his concern over Pfizer’s closure of an R&D facility at Sandwich, and suggested that a takeover might be partly for tax reasons.
He said: “Do we really want a jewel in the crown of British industry, our second biggest pharmaceutical firm, to be basically seen as an instrument of tax planning in some tax planning game?”
The shadow business secretary said that “unheard of” government negotiation was “undermining the Astra board”.
Listen to the debate in full on the Radio 4 website.