By Jason Groves
Published: 09:40 EST, 9 May 2014 | Updated: 18:26 EST, 9 May 2014
Lobbyist Sir Alan Parker has been trying to influence the decision to allow the hostile takeover of AstraZeneca by US giant Pfizer
A lobbyist friend of David Cameron is at the heart of the hostile bid by American drugs giant Pfizer to take over British rival AstraZeneca, it emerged yesterday.
Sir Alan Parker, who once holidayed with Mr Cameron and received a knighthood in the New Year honours list, is spearheading the UK lobbying operation for Pfizer’s controversial £63 billion bid.
Mr Cameron has been accused of ‘cheerleading’ for the bid, despite concerns about the impact on British jobs and science.
Last night Downing Street said it was ‘nonsense’ to suggest the Prime Minister’s friendship with Sir Alan had coloured his view of the proposed deal.
‘The Prime Minister is fighting for British jobs and British science,’ the spokesman said.
But the revelations will raise fresh concerns about the influence of well-connected lobbyists within government. Sir Alan, whose PR and lobbying firm Brunswick is acting for Pfizer, has close personal links with Mr Cameron.
The Prime Minister was guest of honour at his 50th birthday and the two men’s families have been on holiday together.
Sir Alan accompanied Mr Cameron on a trade mission to China in December last year and he was knighted a few weeks later.
Tory sources pointed out that Sir Alan, whose firm acted for US food giant Kraft in its bitter 2009 take-over of British chocolate maker Cadbury, also had close links to Gordon Brown. Brunswick declined to comment.
The revelations came amid mounting concern about the potential impact of a foreign buyout of AstraZeneca.
The Wellcome Trust, Britain’s biggest medical research foundation, became the latest high-profile organisation to warn that the deal could damage Britain’s science and research base.
Sir Alan is a personal friend of British Prime Minister David Cameron, pictured
In a leaked letter to George Osborne, trust chairman Sir William Castell said the deal raised ‘major concerns’. He said AstraZeneca was ‘critical’ to the UK’s science base and he raised doubts about Pfizer’s record.
‘Pfizer’s past acquisitions of major pharmaceutical companies have led to a substantial reduction in research and development activity, which we are concerned could be replicated in this instance,’ Sir William said.
Mr Cameron, who has held talks with both sides in the deal, has already extracted a series of assurances from Pfizer about future investment in the UK.
But last week he said he wanted further assurances, and officials are examining how to make any promises binding.
Nick Clegg yesterday warned that the Government’s massive spending on pharmaceuticals and science gave it a ‘stake’ in the outcome of the deal which justified interference – including demanding assurances on jobs and research.
Swedish premier Fredrik Reinfeldt yesterday said Pfizer’s promises could not be trusted. Sweden was given assurances by the US firm during its 2002 acquisition of Pharmacia but Mr Reinfeldt said: ‘There were promises that it would mean jobs and operations in Sweden that we don’t think were honoured.’
Ed Miliband was accused of ‘a huge error of judgment’ yesterday after it emerged he had rejected talks with Pfizer about its planned takeover of AstraZeneca.
Labour sources confirmed that Mr Miliband had turned down a meeting with Pfizer boss Ian Read because he was ‘too busy’ – just days before he attacked the deal.
Labour leader Ed Miliband was heavily criticised for refusing to meet Pfizer boss Ian Read because he was 'too busy'
The Labour leader was also facing the prospect of a Commons sleaze inquiry over a donation of £4,400 from former Labour minister Shriti Vadera when she was a board member of AstraZeneca last year. Mr Miliband failed to draw attention to it, as required by parliamentary rules, when he criticised the Pfizer deal in the Commons.
Leading Conservatives yesterday accused Mr Miliband of ‘posturing’ and said it was extraordinary that he chose to hit the election trail rather than discuss the potential fallout of the biggest takeover in British corporate history.
David Cameron, who has held talks with both sides in the deal, said his policy of engagement stood in ‘stark contrast to the Labour leader who wouldn’t even meet with them’. Chancellor George Osborne added: ‘It is a huge error of judgment.’