Chuka Umunna: “Grave concern” over potential AstraZeneca deal

Shadow business secretary Chuka Umunna clashed with science minister David Willetts this morning over Pfizer’s potential purchase of AstraZeneca.

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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.

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  • davidhill

    For once Miliband has put his brain into first gear, unlike Cameron who is an idiot if he believes a corporate raider/asset stripper’s guarantees and he is like all those who have gone before him (Brown & Blair et al), and like all politicians who just look at today and not to the consequences that their decisions will bring for tomorrow.

    The Pfizer takeover of AstraZeneca should not be allowed by government on long-term national security grounds (jobs et al). The last government allowed several major foreign takeovers and where Mandelson (Business Secretary) for one assured the British people that no job losses would be the case if Kraft took over Cadbury. Now more or less all British jobs have gone. What Pfizer is after again like Kraft were et al, is ‘brands’, R&D and new product ranges and where it does not matter where they produce these profit generators once they get control. The government will be hoodwinked again over time as bit-by-bit Pfizer will take all manufacturing and R&D elsewhere. It is a slow meticulous process where no-one realises what is happening until it is too late and then all the jobs are gone forever. But there is another ‘dark’ side also to this economy decaying process of heavy consolidation in the US$1 trillion+ global pharmaceutical industry and people should be fully aware of that as the drug companies consolidate, their morals and integrity become corrupted fully –

    http://www.democraticunderground.com/discuss/duboard.php?az=view_all&address=439×2103129

    http://worldinnovationfoundation.blogspot.co.uk/2013/12/global-pharmaceutical-giants-have-made.html

    http://worldinnovationfoundation.blogspot.co.uk/2014/01/what-successive-governments-and.html

    http://worldinnovationfoundation.blogspot.co.uk/2013/12/possibly-most-important-keynote-speech.html

    Therefore this and all other mega-deals should be stopped on the grounds of a nation’s long-term national interest. Indeed if government allow these mega-takeovers to go through they are cutting the very throats of all future generations to come when it comes to jobs and long-term employment security in this country and for that matter, any other country that allows this process to persist that indirectly reduces living standards for 90% of the world’s people. Unfortunately the bigger the business, the less they consider social problems and harm to the vast majority of people that is totally immoral.