Packets of prescription drugs made by the pharmaceutical firms AstraZeneca and Pfizer on May 7, 2014 in Cambridge. Photograph: Getty Images.
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Labour cheers a victory for the producers over the predators

AstraZeneca rejects Pfizer's final offer for the company. 

Is it all over for Pfizer? The board of AstraZeneca has this morning rejected its final offer of £69.4bn (£55 per share) for the company on the grounds that it fails to recognise its full value.

Chairman Leif Johansson rightly pointed out that Pfizer appeared to be primarily motivated by the tax advantage it would gain from being domiciled in the UK (where corporation tax is 21 per cent compared to the headline US rate of 35 per cent) and had failed to offer adequate guarantees over investment. He said:

Pfizer's approach throughout its pursuit of AstraZeneca appears to have been fundamentally driven by the corporate financial benefits to its shareholders of cost savings and tax minimisation. From our first meeting in January to our latest discussion yesterday, and in the numerous phone calls in between, Pfizer has failed to make a compelling strategic, business or value case. The Board is firm in its conviction as to the appropriate terms to recommend to shareholders.

Provided that AstraZeneca's shareholders choose to approve its decision, the company will survive in its current form.

Labour's criticism of Pfizer's approach, and its threat to block the deal by introducing a new public interest test in May 2015, undoubtedly played a role in stiffening the board's sinews. Chuka Umunna, who grasped the significance of the bid (the largest proposed foreign takeover in British history) from the start, has welcomed AstraZeneca's decision this morning, tweeting that "In the decision of AZ's board we see the long term overcoming the short term, fast buck mentality we need to see less of in UK business" and that "We don't want to see the takeover of great British firms driven by financial engineering - we want them to be driven by long term investment". 

The Tories sought to present Labour's demand for a tougher public interest test as crude state interventionism but it was hard for them to do so when figures such as Michael Heseltine, an economic adviser to the government, and Lord Sainsbury also questioned whether the deal was in the national interest. 

Heseltine called for the introduction of "reserve powers" to protect British companies when assets such as the country's science base are at risk."Foreign takeovers can often be hugely helpful and I have no doctrinal preoccupations - I've done enough takeovers of small businesses myself to know how valuable they can be. But the important point is that every other advanced economy has mechanisms of some sort on a failsafe basis to scrutinise foreign takeovers and we're the only country that doesn't."

As Heseltine said, there is no major western country in which it is easier for a foreign firm to take over a domestic company than the UK. If Britain is to move towards the "responsible capitalism" championed by Miliband, this will need to change. 

By holding out against Pfizer, AstraZeneca has set an important precedent that will deter future predators from seeking to capture more great British companies. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

Photo: Getty
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Rising crime and fewer police show the most damaging impacts of austerity

We need to protect those who protect us.

Today’s revelation that police-recorded crime has risen by 10 per cent across England and Wales shows one of the most damaging impacts of austerity. Behind the cold figures are countless stories of personal misery; 723 homicides, 466,018 crimes with violence resulting in injury, and 205,869 domestic burglaries to take just a few examples.

It is crucial that politicians of all parties seek to address this rising level of violence and offer solutions to halt the increase in violent crime. I challenge any Tory to defend the idea that their constituents are best served by a continued squeeze on police budgets, when the number of officers is already at the lowest level for more than 30 years.

This week saw the launch Chris Bryant's Protect The Protectors Private Member’s Bill, which aims to secure greater protections for emergency service workers. It carries on where my attempts in the last parliament left off, and could not come at a more important time. Cuts to the number of police officers on our streets have not only left our communities less safe, but officers themselves are now more vulnerable as well.

As an MP I work closely with the local neighbourhood policing teams in my constituency of Halifax. There is some outstanding work going on to address the underlying causes of crime, to tackle antisocial behaviour, and to build trust and engagement across communities. I am always amazed that neighbourhood police officers seem to know the name of every kid in their patch. However cuts to West Yorkshire Police, which have totalled more than £160m since 2010, have meant that the number of neighbourhood officers in my district has been cut by half in the last year, as the budget squeeze continues and more resources are drawn into counter-terrorism and other specialisms .

Overall, West Yorkshire Police have seen a loss of around 1,200 officers. West Yorkshire Police Federation chairman Nick Smart is clear about the result: "To say it’s had no effect on frontline policing is just a nonsense.” Yet for years the Conservatives have argued just this, with the Prime Minister recently telling MPs that crime was at a record low, and ministers frequently arguing that the changing nature of crime means that the number of officers is a poor measure of police effectiveness. These figures today completely debunk that myth.

Constituents are also increasingly coming to me with concerns that crimes are not investigated once they are reported. Where the police simply do not have the resources to follow-up and attend or investigate crimes, communities lose faith and the criminals grow in confidence.

A frequently overlooked part of this discussion is that the demands on police have increased hugely, often in some unexpected ways. A clear example of this is that cuts in our mental health services have resulted in police officers having to deal with mental health issues in the custody suite. While on shift with the police last year, I saw how an average night included a series of people detained under the Mental Health Act. Due to a lack of specialist beds, vulnerable patients were held in a police cell, or even in the back of a police car, for their own safety. We should all be concerned that the police are becoming a catch-all for the state’s failures.

While the politically charged campaign to restore police numbers is ongoing, Protect The Protectors is seeking to build cross-party support for measures that would offer greater protections to officers immediately. In February, the Police Federation of England and Wales released the results of its latest welfare survey data which suggest that there were more than two million unarmed physical assaults on officers over a 12-month period, and a further 302,842 assaults using a deadly weapon.

This is partly due to an increase in single crewing, which sees officers sent out on their own into often hostile circumstances. Morale in the police has suffered hugely in recent years and almost every front-line officer will be able to recall a time when they were recently assaulted.

If we want to tackle this undeniable rise in violent crime, then a large part of the solution is protecting those who protect us; strengthening the law to keep them from harm where possible, restoring morale by removing the pay cap, and most importantly, increasing their numbers.

Holly Lynch is the MP for Halifax. The Protect the Protectors bill will get its second reading on the Friday 20th October. 

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