Solomon Binding and the Pfizer/Astra debate


This week listening to Labour I thought I had woken up again in the 1970s. Labour wants “solemn and binding” guarantees from Pfizer that it will never sack a British worker if it takes over Astra Zeneca, and will invest large sums in research facilities at Cambridge.

There is something absurd about politicians demanding assurances that a company’s promise will be held to whatever happens next. Anyone who has experience of government knows that events can force a rethink of the genuine promise honestly made. They also should know that an individual can make a promise, but changes to personnel in the government or company subsequently may change the policy in ways the person making the promise can no longer influence.

It is of course sensible to ask enough questions to make sure the promise is honestly made. We do not want a Pfizer promise like the Lib Dem one to rule out tuition fees for university students, only to see them newly  in power craft a policy and recommend it which did the opposite of what they promised.

It is difficult to go much beyond that. Sometimes people in power make promises which may have been honestly made, but later are forced to choose between two different promises, as it is not always possible to carry out both when circumstances change. Labour promised an ethical foreign policy, yet under the influence of allies and wanting to uphold the US special relationship ended up fighting a war in Iraq which was heavily criticised at the time on ethical grounds.  Labour also promised no Income Tax rises, yet ended their period in office with Income Tax and National Insurance tax rises owing to the collapse of the economy and Great recession on their watch. Sometimes parties promise things they know they cannot possibly carry out, like UKIP promising to take us out of the EU if we vote for them in the European elections. A few days before elections I do not have the luxury of pointing out any Conservative examples, without danger of misrepresentation, but I am sure my readers will be keen to supply some they think occurred.

Sometimes things deteriorate far more than expected. In the case of a company if trade turns down and revenue falls, they may well have to cut costs in ways they had not expected. Companies do not have the luxury of governments with their own currencies, of being able to print more money or borrow cheaply. If a company cannot pay all the bills it has to make cuts.

In the case of Pfizer, what happens if the CEO changes from the one making the promsie? What if the shareholders of the enlarged group if they succeed with a bid have a different view from that of the bidding management of Pfizer?

As I have pointed out before, both Pfizer and Astra Zeneca have been cutting their workforces. Astra is currently closing its research facilities in the north. We will never know for sure which route is the best for British jobs and research, because only one side will win and  have the chance to show us what they can do.

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  1. Lifelogic
    Posted May 14, 2014 at 6:10 am | Permalink

    Given that Cameron threw the last election by his incompetence, socialism and ratting he put the Tories in a total mess. But he should then have done a deal with the Libdems that avoided tuition fees for them using a graduate tax (the loan scheme almost is, in effect almost one anyway). In return he should have kept his IHT promise and his treaty referendum promise and got the constituency boundaries corrected.

    Thus retaining some credibility instead of making the absurd claim that a treaty is not a treaty once ratified. But in his heart and soul he is a Libdem alas.

    Quoted public companies will often not fund much raw science as the lead period for any return can be so long or even never. It is an area where governments can help through universities, tax reliefs and similar. The danger is always that those that do will be taken over by those who have a more short term view and thus more cash flows and a better share price. Shareholders often want a quick return. Companies perhaps need a benign, benevolent dictatorship with a long view too sometimes. The danger is government piss money away a silly political vanity projects HS2, man on the moon, concord, millennium dome, the Olympics, the shuttle & exploding female teachers in space for political reasons.

    We should not forget that if the deal goes through the shareholders and some staff will have a lot of new money to invest and this may well spark new research companies in addition to the existing. But who knows who will run it better in the end?

    I would cancel all the state funding of the countless duff university courses and hobby subjects, cut the green crap subsidies for expensive energy, electric cars, HS2, sport, trains and the likes and put the money into real science, nuclear fusion, fracking & fracking research, battery technology, GM, medical research and countless other very exciting areas of engineering.

    Far to many complete dopes go to university anyway Justin Welby went to Eton and Trinity, Cambridge but say some absurd things. Some like Cameron even get a first at Oxford in PPE but still have no grasp of economics and make absurdly duff decisions on taxation, the size of government, the green crap subsidies, the climate change act, the EU, the destruction of UK democracy, gender insurance and pension rules, giving Clegg equal tv billing, ratting on his EU & IHT promises, token women here and there, token people of religion, the “BBC think” propaganda, the appalling structure of the three letters 1000 a month N H S ……

    No one with any grasp of economics or running a business would run the NHS as it currently is. It is a total disaster as currently structured. It even practices quack medicine so taxpayer have to fund thing we know do not work at all and vanity treatments!

    You should do r&d and get something to work economically “before” you litter the seas and land with countless duff technology wind turbines (bird & bat chomping litter that is only there due to daft tax payer subsidies). It is the r&d and science you need to fund not half baked technology that does not even work economically yet.

  2. Lifelogic
    Posted May 14, 2014 at 6:33 am | Permalink

    So we have to get use to driving at 40 MPH it seems as they will not build any decent new road and bridges preferring to spend it on idiotic HS train lines that go at 180? then you do the end bits at say 5 MPH? in a taxi traffic jam or something.

    Also no rational to the 60% tax rate from 100K to 120K well does any of the UK tax system have much rational?

    • uanime5
      Posted May 15, 2014 at 12:08 am | Permalink

      There’s also no rational for the 52% tax rate (income tax + NI) between £31,865 and £41,860. However fewer people complain because it’s not a tax that only affects the wealthy.

      • Edward2
        Posted May 15, 2014 at 1:38 pm | Permalink

        Glad to see you coming round to the benefits of lowering taxes for all Uni.

      • Narrow Shoulders
        Posted May 15, 2014 at 2:26 pm | Permalink

        When personal allowances are taken into account very few people other than company car owners and “wealthy” child benefit recipients are subject to this tax so it is not noticed.

        There is a 100% marginal tax rate at £60k for those taxed on child benefit (or as I prefer to think of it tax relief for the cost of bringing up the next generation of tax slaves) if you wish to shed some real tears.

  3. Mike Stallard
    Posted May 14, 2014 at 6:36 am | Permalink

    Do you remember President Obama using BP as a stick to beat the British Empire with? All BP did was to change the Brit CEO for an American because BP is no more British than the UN. It is global.
    Knowing nothing at all about Big Farma, I can say quite positively that both companies (and I cannot spell either) are global. So our government is far too small to do anything useful (again).
    Labour is paid for almost exclusively by the TU. So Mr Len McClusky calls the tune. Are you surprised when they start to play “What about the Workers?”

    PS “like UKIP promising to take us out of the EU if we vote for them in the European elections.” I am beginning to come round to the idea of UDI for Britain as Mr Smith did for Rhodesia, or President Jefferson Davis did for the Confederate States, or General Oronsi did in Nigeria. Then what?

    • Hope
      Posted May 15, 2014 at 7:53 am | Permalink

      One thing for sure Mike, if you vote LibLabCon do not expect any change. You can also expect to become a citizen of the Western province of the EU superstate. Your vote will be wasted because all you will be voting for is a cosmetic choice to implement EU law, regulation and policy. Like the sham debate about the pharmaceutical companies, ultimately it will be the EU who decides, and the person from the EU would not have been elected by any of us.

      UKIP is growing and undoubtedly will be piliorised along the way by the Europhile fanatics. If the EU can effect regime change/ coups in Greece and Italy and watch millions of people become destitute in southern Europe it can certainly smear and undermine political parties. However the EU can only last as long as the people allow it through voting for the LibLabCon. Change your voting habit next week and next year to get a change.

      • Tad Davison
        Posted May 15, 2014 at 3:36 pm | Permalink

        Exactly right Hope. I want to drive the nails into the coffin of the liars and the cheats at Westminster.


  4. margaret brandreth-j
    Posted May 14, 2014 at 6:37 am | Permalink

    Yes I heard those words in the 70’s and here I am at my small desk overlooking my beautiful, but overgrown garden with blues sky at last promising at least weather which will dry out the small lawns. I took vows seriously ,but as years pass , I wondered why. When all break promises around it appears naive not to join in, but I actually find it difficult not to tell the truth and not to break promises(It must be something to do with my childhood) There is no such difficulty it would seem in politics and business.

    I am not exactly sure why there should be only one winner . I am an advocate of compromise.It means that one doesn’t get all their own way and would find situations frustrating , but you know with male dominance over the centuries women have had to live in this situation of compromise.

    I was thinking about the Brighton bombings last night and wasn’t sure whether you were policy advisor at that time.I was reflecting upon how cruel people can be to get their own way.Ones own way is fine if it doesn’t impact upon others ; isn’t it strange the way impact has become a verb? Lies and broken promises though make slaves of us all.

    Reply Yes, I was in the hotel when the bomb went off.

    • Hope
      Posted May 15, 2014 at 8:02 am | Permalink

      Margaret it is not hard to keep your word like you say. This comes from emotional intelligence. Politicians who should be pillars of society and role models have become synonymous with liars and oil snake salesman, say anything to get a vote (with a few expectations). Those in a position of power that allow the culture to continue after promising to alter it are even worse to my mind. They are actually indirectly promoting and condoning it. It has become clear that those currently in office do not have morals or veracity to raise standards in public office, despite the best education or intellect, and are a disgrace to the country and all that we should stand for.

    • Tad Davison
      Posted May 15, 2014 at 3:41 pm | Permalink

      Re. your last paragraph Margaret, please try to spend a little of your time searching on YouTube for ‘neo-cons’ and another little world-changing matter that is in the news today relating to Obama giving a speech, and I’m sure you will come to see just how dangerous some people are. They do not care for others, just as long as they get their way.


  5. Gary
    Posted May 14, 2014 at 6:46 am | Permalink

    You are describing a govt second guessing the market.

    It comes out looking like a farce, because that’s exactly what it is. And yet the ignorant, arrogant politicians blunder on regardless, trying to command the tide.

    • Bryan
      Posted May 14, 2014 at 8:46 am | Permalink

      Unlike most politicians, and those on this select committee, Canute was proving that he did not have the power to stop the tide.

  6. Alan Wheatley
    Posted May 14, 2014 at 6:59 am | Permalink

    There is indeed “… something absurd about politicians demanding assurances that a company’s promise will be held to whatever happens next”. After all, this is one area in which politicians have considerable expertise. For instance, is it not a guiding principle of Parliament that no government can be bound by its predecessor.

    But equally there is no justification for cheap shots, even in the feverish prelude to an election.

    Any party’s manifesto written on the premiss they would be the government can not be expected to survive intact should they become coalition partners in government, especially where they have the fewer MPs.

    And equally a manifesto presenting what a party stands for is in no way devalued because there is little prospect of that party forming a government. Better that than a party with a very good prospect of forming a government being silent in their manifesto on an important point of policy and then ramming that policy into law with scant consideration of their electorate.

  7. Narrow Shoulders
    Posted May 14, 2014 at 7:02 am | Permalink

    Labour’s answer to everything is more legislation, larger government, more control. If Wallace and Gromit (the attack dog) get in I fully expect my ablutions to be first regulated and then taxed (by weight) to pay for their authoritarianism and client state.

    Thank you for your invite to highlight Conservative broken promises; “we are all in this together” but especially higher rate PAYE slaves from whom they have removed previously universal benefit and reduced the entry threshold. #shootingfishinabarrell

    • Lifelogic
      Posted May 14, 2014 at 3:59 pm | Permalink

      “Labour’s answer to everything is more legislation, larger government, more control.”

      Indeed it is, but it is also alas Cameron’s, Clegg’s, the BBC’s, most state sector bureaucrats and the EU’s. They are all in the regulation, gentle extortion, licencing and taxation industry, they would regulate, licence and tax your breathing, farting, ablutions, teeth cleaning and thought processes if they allowed to get away with it.

      Come to think of it they surely already have controls on methane emissions, co2, tooth brushes, and tooth paste, sewage, fluoride and several thought crimes.

  8. Denis Cooper
    Posted May 14, 2014 at 7:15 am | Permalink

    “Sometimes parties promise things they know they cannot possibly carry out, like UKIP promising to take us out of the EU if we vote for them in the European elections.”

    I recall a brief conversation with one of the local LibDems, back in 2001 when they had just taken a large slice off the majority of the Tory MP: he frankly and rather boastfully outlined their future plan, which was first to take control of the council and then be in a stronger position to finish her off at the next general election.

    Well, it didn’t quite work out like that, she survived and is now Home Secretary, but you get the idea. Of course even if UKIP won every UK seat in the EU Parliament they could not take us out of the EU because that will have to be done by the UK Parliament, but they would be in a much stronger position to bring that about.

    • Bob
      Posted May 14, 2014 at 9:14 am | Permalink

      @Denis Cooper
      There would be no discussion about our EU membership if it were not for ukip.
      It would have been craftily brushed under the carpet.

      • Hope
        Posted May 15, 2014 at 8:12 am | Permalink

        I disagree with with Dennis. It is the first step to bring this about. By winning the Eau elections will gain public support and more momentum that the public are fed up with being conned by the LibLab Con cartel. It brings winning the general election one step closer and in doing so we might see a shift in huge other political parties.

        One thing for sure there will be no change for voting for the cartel who want to be a province of Europe and who actually do not want to run the country they want to implement what the EU dictates. I want a sovereign self governing nation before any other fact, not to be a province of a superstate where we do not get to elect those who regulate the way we live or want to live.

        Who would have thought that a conservative government would impose state press regulation, allow access to your bank account without the safe guard of a court order or be able to challenge without justification or gay marriage. Who would have thought a Conservative would prevent wearing a cross in the work place while content for the turban, niqab or burka to be worn? Our culture, customs, values and beliefs eroded by a conservative. The economy strategy and public services are other moot points, but I do not recognise conservatism in Cameron and his cabinet chums.

    • Anonymous
      Posted May 14, 2014 at 9:32 am | Permalink

      Voting for a party which must of us know can’t keep its promises is not the point.

      We are not voting Tory, Liberal Democrat or Labour and in voting UKIP we’re telling them why we’re not; we’re also telling them how they must change if they want us back.

      The biggest hurdle for any party is the LibLabCon label and the fact that they’ve told us repeatedly how much control the EU already has over us – whenever they blame all the bad things going on in Britain (whom they can’t deport etc) on the EU.

      On the one hand many think ‘they’re all the same anyway’ and on the other they think the EU controls us anyway. There is no longer seen to be any risk in voting radically or not at all.

      • Narrow Shoulders
        Posted May 14, 2014 at 6:24 pm | Permalink


        An election is an opportunity to take part in opinion poll where there is something at stake from the outcome so the respondents’ responses have consequences.

        The electorate should be less concerned with voting for a winner and more concerned with registering its opinion.

        I shall be voting Conservative in the local elections because the incumbent Conservative council in my opinion is doing a fine job and the election is about local issues. I shall be voting UKIP in the EU election because my opinion is that we should leave the EU.

        Single issues and the registering of opinion, it’s the way to re engage the electorate.

    • waramess
      Posted May 14, 2014 at 4:59 pm | Permalink

      With Liberal support declining fast and support for UKIP growing fast it is not clear how the dice will land at the next General Election.

      Who, after all would have thought the Liberals would have such a say over Conservative policies five years ago.

      Nothing is over until the fat lady sings.

  9. formula57
    Posted May 14, 2014 at 7:34 am | Permalink

    Pfizer may be more willing to provide the sought “solemn and binding” guarantees if offered some reciprocity. Mr Miliband’s New Labour, fresh from freezing energy prices and rents and other wonders, will perhaps be eager to guarantee to Pfizer no tax rises, no new taxes or employment costs, no new regulations, no interest rate rises, no measures of any sort that might have an adverse impact upon Pfizer. Worth asking for anyway, I would think.

  10. alan jutson,
    Posted May 14, 2014 at 7:35 am | Permalink

    Yes circumstances can change.

    Sometimes those decisions have nothing to do with competitors actions, or even those of its customers.

    They can even change because of a change in government policy or taxation, or even by the EU in the form of regulation etc.

    Decisions taken years ago which seem sensible at the time. look silly when the government move the goalposts.

    AstraZenica employ about 50,000 people I believe, of which about 10% work in the UK.
    AstraZenica has shareholders throughout the World.
    AstraZenica has customers throughout the World.

    It would perhaps be nice, but Is it really British.

    What actually constitutes a promise, perhaps we should ask politicians.

  11. Brian Tomkinson
    Posted May 14, 2014 at 7:40 am | Permalink

    JR: ” Sometimes parties promise things they know they cannot possibly carry out, like UKIP promising to take us out of the EU if we vote for them in the European elections.”
    Actual comment from Farage in UKIP manifesto: “With your help, we’ll continue to work for the UK’s withdrawal from the big political project that is the EU – the project, as long-serving commissioner said recently, to create a United States of Europe.
    With your help, we’ll succeed.”
    Elsewhere it states : “Use May 22nd as the EU Referendum the other parties have denied you and vote UKIP to leave the EU.”
    Not exactly a “promise to take us out of the EU” but an appeal for votes as part of a process to show support for that action and thereby help move towards that outcome.
    Only yesterday you were adamant : ” I do not slag off UKIP”. On the contrary, I think we can see that you work to Cameron’s, Osborne’s and Crosby’s instructions.

    • David Price
      Posted May 14, 2014 at 8:16 am | Permalink

      However the “What we stand for” section on your website has as it’s first statement “A vote for UKIP is a vote to leave the EU and recover power over our national life.” Please get your stories straight, if you are not focused on UK independence then what is the point of your party?

      The illuminating aspect of this whole situation is that if UKIP collaborated with eurosceptic MPs of whatever stripe then the goal would be achived far sooner. Instead, there is the counteracttive, undending torrent of sniping and verbal abuse from UKIP activists and supporters against those they ought to be collaborating with. This is very odd behaviour considering your party’s goal.

      The politics are not “refreshingly” different, simply more of the same low grade rubbish. Of course it makes perfect sense if the actual aim is for UKIP to take a long time to achieve it’s goal and stay attached to the money pipe without actually having to deliver on any promise.

      I don’t view this situation as a determined conservative. I view it as a voter pissed off with the whole political mess but especially angry at UKIP as they are clearly not determined to achieve a goal for the benefit of the UK. UKIP merely want to destroy those they see as the established parties blocking their path to power and don’t care who or what they damage.

      • Brian Tomkinson
        Posted May 14, 2014 at 9:32 pm | Permalink

        Of course UKIP wants to take the UK out of the EU. To repeat, my point was to show that our host was claiming falsely that: “Sometimes parties promise things they know they cannot possibly carry out, like UKIP promising to take us out of the EU if we vote for them in the European elections.”
        I must say that “the counteractive, undending torrent of sniping and verbal abuse” seems to me to be directed at UKIP not emanating from UKIP. The three main parties in Westminster, willingly supported by the media, will do anything but discuss the policy issues relating to the EU. Fearful of UKIP’s rise in popularity they are determined to “strangle it at birth” just as one Cyril Smith MP recommended about any fourth party emerging, back in 1981.

        • David Price
          Posted May 16, 2014 at 3:00 pm | Permalink

          I abhor the rudeness of the other panel members on QT as much as most people, but that does not excuse the abusive commentary on this blog that does emenate from UKIP supporters.

      • Tad Davison
        Posted May 15, 2014 at 4:09 pm | Permalink

        ‘UKIP merely want to destroy those they see as the established parties blocking their path to power and don’t care who or what they damage.’

        I don’t see it that way at all, quite the reverse in fact. The Westminster parties are presently using deplorable tactics against UKIP, and the nett effect of that is to make a sizable chunk of the electorate even more determined to put our crosses elsewhere. If, per chance, you are suggesting we really ought to give the Tories another go, as they are the only ones who can deliver, sorry, but they’ve blown it!

        Personally, if I did that, and Cameron ratted again, JR would not let me say what I would like to do to him. We’ve been deceived before and we’re just not going there. We’re not taking that risk. They only have themselves to blame for being what JR himself has described as a ‘Federalist party’. And here’s something to conjure with, why should the arch-Europhile Clarke still be there in cabinet to oversee the Governments direction?

        If I wanted out of the EU, I wouldn’t have Clarke within a million miles of my government, but then Cameron doesn’t want out. He still wants their sticky fingers in the pie.

        Nah, they’re all as bad. Good riddance I say!


        Reply The Conservative party is not federalist and left the federalist Conservative grouping i9n the European Parliament under Mr Cameron’s leadership to make the point.

        • David Price
          Posted May 16, 2014 at 3:14 pm | Permalink

          ” If, per chance, you are suggesting we really ought to give the Tories another go”

          I am not advocating you vote one way or another. I am suggesting that UKIP is not behaving in a way consistent with its stated goals.

          Further, its supporters continually claim they are being victimised while at the same time they are freeloading off this blog and practising the same kind of abuse they complain they suffer.

          You declare you won’t be deceived again, yet UKIP have apparently been deceived a number of times with prospective candidates and members. Frankly, if UKIP is incapable of maintaining an agenda in the same way its supporters demands of the other parties and incapable of working with those it disagrees with what use is UKIP as a political organisation? If UKIP is incapable of reaching a workable agreement with hostile partners then you stand no chance of negotiating trade agreements in the worlr let alone facilitating a majority for Brexit in parliament.

          • Hope
            Posted May 17, 2014 at 8:05 am | Permalink

            All pessimistic views with a lot of speculation. I do not think they are any different form the other parties. They have original ideas about running the country for ourselves. The LibLab Con want the same thing, to implement EU law,policy and regulation.

          • Tad Davison
            Posted May 17, 2014 at 10:13 am | Permalink

            I would say that all parties are deceived, even by some who we thought would never cross the line, hence the Newark by-election.

            My own judgement suggests that UKIP have been true to their core principles all along. I can’t say that of the others, but where we know that the Lib Dems and Labour are mostly unabashed Euro-fanatics, the Tories try to kid us otherwise, and I find that appalling.

            As for UKIP supporters freeloading off this blog, as I often say, to deny debate to deny democracy, and it is to John’s credit that he lets everyone have their say – even those on the left. Quite unlike Conservative Home where people get booted off for criticising Cameron, here, we can have a measured discussion. How else would our politicians get to know our true feelings?

            I’ll even go as far as to suggest (because I know the identities of some who get to read the comments), that policies can even be changed that way.

            I’d be interested to know why you feel UKIP could never work with anyone else, when they have always said that if we come out of the EU, they would co-operate with other countries in areas of mutual interest?


          • David Price
            Posted May 18, 2014 at 12:37 pm | Permalink

            My point about freeloading is that UKIP do not provide a public forum for debate. In that respect they are not promoting democracy yet some have accused JR of stiffling democracy for moderating what is actually a private blog and not a public service. In otherwords, hypocrisy knows no political boundaries.

            You contend UKIP would cooperate with competitor countries yet they refuse to cooperate with those members of other UK parties to achieve their stated primary goal. This is as odd behaviour as SNP demanding independence so that they can become vassals of the EU. Both are double think and make me wonder for whose benefit this game is actually being played.

            Reply UKIP supporters regularly use this blog to advance their party’s cause in ways Conservative and Labour supporters do not. They go out of their way to be unpleasant about Conservatives, wanting to divide the Eurosceptic movement rather than trying to bring it together.

        • Tad Davison
          Posted May 17, 2014 at 9:55 am | Permalink

          Reply to reply:

          Now come on John, I really can’t let that one pass. You have said on this blog, if people don’t want to belong to the EU, why do they keep electing Euro federalist parties?

          If you like, I’ll spend some time and dig out the quote.

          Mike Penning will confirm that I joined CAFE (Conservatives Against a Federal Europe) in the 1990s precisely for that reason, to try to alter the party’s direction away from the Euro-federalism people like Major, Heseltine, and Clarke wished to take it towards. I have seen no appreciable change in direction since. Cameron only decided to offer the chance of a referendum, with all strings attached, because his hand was forced by the gathering strength of public opinion, otherwise he wouldn’t have bothered. He would have let matters play out and we would slowly be consumed by the EU. Pull the other one. The Tories would still let us drift to ever-closer union. They’ve blown it and it’s now time to give another party a chance.


  12. Ex-expat Colin
    Posted May 14, 2014 at 7:50 am | Permalink

    Listening to Digby Jones last night (radio) I felt somewhat perplexed. I think he was for private enterprise doing as it felt necessary. And if the business environment was good in UK and attracted foreign companies then business could be “liked” by the public where something untoward happened due to business practices. Thats practices that go wrong or does the Kraft act. Something like that .

    You said: “There is something absurd about politicians demanding assurances that a company’s promise will be held to whatever happens next”

    There is indeed a lot absurd about the attitude(s) of politicians to many things affecting us today…thats for sure. However, the business of researching and bringing life enhancing/saving drugs to market quickly is massively more important than getting taxes from chocolate products.

    In regards to drugs which is a safety critical subject I think I would prefer the control of that business (research/manufacturing here in UK. And I am not sure whether it should be in the hands of profit seekers either.

    Trouble is that placing such a service in the hands of the state could well be much worse. What is the best of the two evils….business and asset stripping or crass incompetence and spouting the learn lessons line? Probably the former.

  13. Iain Gill
    Posted May 14, 2014 at 7:54 am | Permalink

    Far better to make sure any intellectual property generated with help from the British people, ie with tax perks here, with help from a state funded British university, with help from a state funded research programme, etc, is jointly held with the British government and protected for the benefit of the British workforce and people.

    • libertarian
      Posted May 14, 2014 at 11:27 am | Permalink

      Dear Iain Gill

      Why should I share the patents and IP I own with the British govt just because I’m English and live here ? The govt has done zero to help me with my invention. Why does my hard work have to benefit everyone else who happens to live in the same area ? Also how does this work in the rest of the world? Do I share my US patent with Obama or what? This silly chauvinistic view is an outdated 19th century concept in a long tail 21st century world.

      The ONLY thing that matters to the British economy is that we operate plants, offices, and factories here that create high value jobs and generate revenues and profits that can be fairly used to provide social support services to the small number of people who require help.

      Britain’s car industry was a disaster when run domestically, under constant state interference. Foreign ownership has meant that within two years it will make more than 2m cars, beating its last record production year, 1972. Free trade works.

      • Iain Gill
        Posted May 14, 2014 at 4:33 pm | Permalink

        I think you misunderstand what I was saying. If a state funded university (for instance) generates some useful intellectual property on the public tab, then I see no reason why the public should not gain some benefit if large profits are made by a commercial organisation from that IP. This is already supposed to happen, but our public sector is pretty bad at doing deals, and doesn’t go about it in a joined up way. I see no reason why they shouldn’t take a percentage of profits in a licencing deal, or insist the IP is kept within the UK for X years to give the UK a competitive advantage.
        The only thing that separates us from third world status is the skills and ability of our people, their ability to produce innovation, quality, and intellectual property we are capable of generating. We are never going to prosper in a race to the lowest price on commodity work. We are never going to prosper when much of the best intellectual property our workforce and people generate is handed over to lower cost base economies by the multi nationals ever faster.
        The current model of intellectual property protection does not reflect the nations input into success.
        Unrestricted free trade works, but is not something anyone really wants, unless you want children sweeping chimneys, the country flooded with ever more unrestricted immigrants, ever more widespread intellectual property theft, factories operating with no safety kit, and so on which are all things an unrestricted free market would lead to, the free market needs some decent limits and that is the job of government to apply. I am on the right wind end of the spectrum but I can see this, surely you can too?

        • libertarian
          Posted May 14, 2014 at 10:19 pm | Permalink

          Iain Gill

          Do you make it up as you go along?

          I’m on the board of a British University and I can assure you they go to great lengths to protect and monetize their IP.

          You do not have any understanding of IP, “kept within the UK” is a completely meaningless statement. IP isn’t IN the UK in the first place. Any IP that relates only to the UK is pointless.

          Your statements about free trade are drivel. You have clearly never owned a business and clearly don’t have the faintest idea about what constitutes free trade. You are also clueless about the automotive business. You can safely be ignored. I do agree though you are on the “right wind” sic of politics.

          • Iain Gill
            Posted May 15, 2014 at 2:00 pm | Permalink

            I am fully aware that there are some universities with professors who know little about their subject and leadership that is clueless, it would not surprise me to find you at such a place.
            I am the real deal, your playground approach shows folk all they need to know about you.

      • Iain Gill
        Posted May 14, 2014 at 5:59 pm | Permalink

        And as for the car industry…
        Well the Toyotas and Nissans are here for one reason only, and that’s import quotas on cars from Japan to Europe. In a complete free market economy there would be very few cars made here, and a lot more would be coming in from Japan.
        (allegations re JLR removed as no evidence to support them ed)

      • David Price
        Posted May 15, 2014 at 11:49 am | Permalink

        You are granted a patent which allows you to exploit your invention without copying nominally protected by the government. The quid pro quo is that the patent describes the invention so others may improve upon it, this process is intended to improve the situation for the wider community.

        If you want similar legal protection for your invention elsewhere then you get a patent in the associated markets – US, Canada, EU etc.

        So if you use the patent process you are sharing your invention/IP, that is the whole point. You could of course keep the invention a trade secret and so not share nor have the protection of patent, but that is a different situation.

        WRT domestic car production, you seem to confuse the disaster of state meddling with management, why should foreign control by companies that have a large foreign state sponsorship be preferable to native management. The solution to state meddling is not foreign ownership. By the way, I suspect it will be 2m cars assembled rather than made with the ability to mind a robot and weild a screw driver replacing that of the higher value design and engineering roles.

        • David Price
          Posted May 15, 2014 at 12:13 pm | Permalink

          BTW when (2002+) I was aware of the German approach in an EU context, where there had been some state funding or interest they allowed the patent grantee full ownership rights. However there were two provisos; that the state could take a licence in the public interest and the work must be available for acadmic research and teaching. So sharing certainly happened to extent of right of use.

          • David Price
            Posted May 17, 2014 at 5:05 am | Permalink

            This was supposed to be an addendum to another comment that hasn’t appeared in a thread above on patents

      • Lifelogic
        Posted May 15, 2014 at 6:20 pm | Permalink

        Personally I think patents and most intellectual property protection, as currently structured, does far more harm than good. More pointless work for lawyers, paper pushers and patent attorneys and fewer researchers, scientists, medical people and engineers is the usual result. More expensive drugs, research restricted and people dying for lack of drugs.

        • David Price
          Posted May 16, 2014 at 3:29 pm | Permalink

          If you do not provide a means for organisations to protect their ability to explout their R&D as sales then you will not get anywhere as much R&D. Patents are supposed to allow this while also making the key elements public so further research can exploit that invention.

          Problems arise with submarine patents, typically by lawyers, and patent trading between companies to block out others from a market but you still need the basic approach of patents or something like it.

          As for people dying through lack of drugs, do you have a specific example or are you refering to the high cost of drugs which is a commercial issue rather than patent related.

  14. matthu
    Posted May 14, 2014 at 8:21 am | Permalink

    Let’s pose a hypothetical question. Suppose after the next GE, the numbers are such that Cameron could form a majority either with LibDems or with UKIP.

    Who would he want to form a coalition with?
    Who would be more likely to guarantee him a referendum?

    (I guess Cameron would be more likely to resign than form a majority with UKIP and give the UK their referendum.)

    Repky The polls continue to show n o UKIP MPs after 2015. Mr Cameron has made ti quite clear he would not form a coalition with anyone who denied him the referendum vote he has promised.

    • Iain Gill
      Posted May 14, 2014 at 6:43 pm | Permalink

      Yea but Cameron has made lots of stuff “clear” like his promise to drop net immigration to below 100 K per year. He may as well promise Santa will visit at Christmas for all the difference his promises make.

      I expect “none of the above” to win the next general election, the political class with a small few exceptions are a joke.

    • sjb
      Posted May 14, 2014 at 8:34 pm | Permalink

      JR wrote: Mr Cameron has made ti quite clear he would not form a coalition with anyone who denied him the referendum vote he has promised.

      If the coalition partner agreed subject to thresholds[1] then Cameron could claim he delivered an In/Out referendum although the burden on the ‘outers’ could be considerable.[2]

      [1] because of the major constitutional change that might follow
      [2] e.g. turnout at least 60%; ‘Out’ to win at least 51% support of the electorate or at least 66% of those that voted.

      Reply NO, there are no such plans and they would not be acceptable

    • Lifelogic
      Posted May 15, 2014 at 6:26 pm | Permalink

      Cameron’s words are totally worthless and even his words are pro EU “no greater Switzerland” and “all my heart an soul”. He threw away his credibility, he will clearly do so again even more easily a second time (nothing now left to lose). Plus his Clark Major wing (over half) will force his hand.

      Doubtless that will be his next fig leaf “I was pushed into it by the pro EU bastards”. He is beneath contempt, and surely cannot win a majority anyway.

  15. Brian Tomkinson
    Posted May 14, 2014 at 8:28 am | Permalink

    Benedict Brogan’s Morning Briefing today : “On Monday night grandees of the Tory outist wing were invited in to CCHQ for supper and a chat with Grant Shapps. Those present included John Redwood, Bill Cash, Bernard Jenkin. The plan had been to enjoin them to rally round, stay on side, stay quiet. Turns out there was no need. It was Mr Redwood, I am told, who urged Mr Shapps and his colleagues to hold the line, keep their heads. The last thing anyone should do, he said, was to go out and stir trouble in the media or try to undermine Mr Cameron. Cue relief in CCHQ to find that the heavy mob are now on side.”
    Thank you for confirming that your loyalty to Cameron is undiminished – party before all else.

    Reply I did indeed say I want an In/Out referendum, and attacking the one man who can win a General Election who promises such a vote would be a silly thing to do just ahead of improtant elections on May 22!

    • Brian Tomkinson
      Posted May 14, 2014 at 4:03 pm | Permalink

      Reply to reply,
      How very interesting and disenguous; as, immediately before the quote I gave above, Brogan wrote the following: “The prospects of a panic after next week’s elections are fading. Downing Street was braced for trouble but it now looks unlikely. What worried Mr Cameron and his team was not a real panic but a fake one, engineered by his opponents.”
      Clearly, you were invited for supper to encourage you to “rally round and stay on side, stay quiet” after the election. It was not a question of attacking Cameron “just ahead of important elections on May 22” but attacking him after you get trounced next week that they were worried about. We know that they needed have had no concerns, as you will always put party loyalty first.

      Reply I was invited for discussions about policy, analysis of where the country and public opinion is and the run up to the GE, not to rally round the PM. We had a wide ranging conversation of the type I keep private, and often have with Ministers.

      • Brian Tomkinson
        Posted May 14, 2014 at 9:03 pm | Permalink

        Reply to reply,
        Better tell Brogan he got it wrong then. Or did he? After all in your earlier reply you were quite happy to take credit for not attacking Cameron but that was in relation to next weeks’ important election – now you tell us it was all about the run up to the general election. However you want to spin it I think Brogan nailed it when he wote: “It was Mr Redwood, I am told, who urged Mr Shapps and his colleagues to hold the line, keep their heads. The last thing anyone should do, he said, was to go out and stir trouble in the media or try to undermine Mr Cameron.”

        Reply Yes it was a very misleading account of the meeting and I have lodged a complaint with the Chairman of the party who I expect will take it further.

        • Brian Tomkinson
          Posted May 16, 2014 at 8:58 am | Permalink

          Reply to reply,
          Shouldn’t you lodge a complaint with Benedict Brogan? I wouldn’t be surprised if Shapps had briefed him in a “misleading” way.

          Reply No on both counts.It is best if it is lodged through the Chairman, as it was his private meeting.

      • stred
        Posted May 15, 2014 at 1:08 pm | Permalink

        JR. Do you think they would invite you to talk if you did not operate your blog?

    • Lifelogic
      Posted May 15, 2014 at 6:39 pm | Permalink

      He is the one man who could, but he will not. His genetic structure and heart and soul is against it, he cannot win an overall majority without a miracle, he has zero credibility left and more than half of the Tory party is Pro EU anyway.

      He can promise anything he likes, it is of no consequence, no one trusts him he has lied, betrayed and cheated far, far too often already. He will doubtless concentrate on finding a pro EU, soft left. green crap, anti science, token woman to be the chair of the BBC trustees instead. What about Maria Millar she is female and a Cameron think sort.

  16. oldtimer
    Posted May 14, 2014 at 8:41 am | Permalink

    Business strategies are built on the shifting foundations of the environments within which they operate. They will be affected by laws and regulations passed by politicians, inflation and interest rates influenced by the bankig system (among others), by changes in social demographics, attitudes and behaviour and above all by technological change. They must either adapt to these changes or they die. No responsible CEO can offer “guarantees” of the kind demanded in such circumstances. They can set out their intentions and direction of travel – as indeed they do for example in a company prospectus to raise new capital or as in the case of a merger proposal.

    One of the most dramatic recent examples of an abrupt change was Kodak`s failure (or perhaps reluctance or inability) to adapt to changing technology. Its long standing and extremely profitable film processing business model buckled under the onslaught of digital photography and processing. This occurred despite the fact that Kodak itself filed numerous patents relating to digital photography. Ultimately Kodak went bust. On its winding up, its principal asset turned out to be its digital patents. A successor company is now in the process of re-inventing a new Kodak.

    It seems some MPs remain unaware of and uninterested in the facts of business life – especially members of the Labour party.

  17. Bert Raven
    Posted May 14, 2014 at 9:07 am | Permalink

    Why should private companies be run in the public interest?

    Should Pfizer be force to keep jobs in the UK, when ‘British’ companies are free to make decisions in the best interest of their shareholders?

    Why should a company effectively be forced to buy British when consumers are not?

  18. Posted May 14, 2014 at 9:10 am | Permalink

    What I find worrying about many of these major takeovers is that they are all done for short term profit by people who don’t care.
    Most of the shares in these companies are held by various investment funds which are run by fund managers whose bonuses depend on the performance of their fund. Thus if they can sell the shares in a company withing their holdings for a premium on the current market value, the short term performance of their fund is boosted, and so are their bonuses.
    They have no interest in the company as a going concern, it is merely a means of making short term profits. Nor do they have any concern for the national interest, or even if the company might make a fortune in a couple of years time, it is the present that matters to them and nothing else.

    • libertarian
      Posted May 14, 2014 at 10:28 pm | Permalink

      English Pensioner

      How ironic given your user name. These investment funds that are interested in short term gains are investing on behalf of who? Oh English pensioners. So you would like your pension fund to ignore making money for you to retire on and concentrate on the long term greater good of the country whatever that is. Really?

      If your analysis was correct how do you square the fact that the money grabbing investment funds are selling out to er, oh other investment funds. What nonsense.

      No wonder the British right wing are in such a state. Considering that none of you have the remotest understanding of business or private ownership which was supposed to be what you stood for I thought. In fact you are all frustrated nationalistic, chauvinistic socialists

    • Robert
      Posted May 15, 2014 at 11:39 am | Permalink

      Sir, that is simply not the case. It may be so in a just a few cases, these are investments held for savings or pensions a majority of cases. Sadly most but not all investors believe the NPV of AZN to be worth substantially less that the current Bid Value.

  19. Vanessa
    Posted May 14, 2014 at 9:29 am | Permalink

    The promises the political class make are virtually NEVER kept. Your manifesto promising a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty which was obviously going to be ratified by the time you got in, in 2010 – no referendum. Your manifesto this time NOT mentioned HS2 and homosexual marriage. What is the point of a Manifesto which the people read to see what they are getting from a particular party when it is full of lies?

    Are you surprised none of us bother to vote any more or, as I am advocating, MILLIONS or spoilt ballot papers – a much more powerful PROTEST for NONE OF THE ABOVE.

    • Denis Cooper
      Posted May 15, 2014 at 6:29 am | Permalink

      Shortly after the Irish voted “no” to the Lisbon Treaty on June 12th 2008 I made two predictions:

      1. They would be made to vote again, probably in the autumn of 2009; and

      2. Therefore Brown would not call a general election here until after the Irish had had the opportunity to change their minds, which probably meant that he would hang on until the spring of 2010.

      If this was obvious to me then it was surely obvious to those leading the Tory party; they must have known perfectly well that however often they urged Brown to call an early general election, and thereby risk losing not only the election but also the treaty, he simply would not do that.

      The question is what the Tory party ever meant by its pledge “we would not let matters rest there”, first enunciated by Hague in November 2007 and repeated for the next two years, including in the Tory manifesto for the 2009 elections to the EU Parliament.

      Most reasonable people would assume that “we would not let matters rest there” if the Lisbon Treaty had already come into force meant that they would actually do something about the Lisbon Treaty, not decide that they would let matters rest there after all by swallowing the treaty whole as a fait accompli.

      Daniel Hannan has recently described that decision as “unconscionable”; and as I have pointed out from time to time we are living with the consequences, which now include the UK government recognising the authority of an EU Foreign Minister whose meddling in Ukraine has taken us close to war with Russia.

      Reply Not letting matters rest meant trigger a renegotiation – which has to await a Conservative government as Lib dems do not agree

      • Tad Davison
        Posted May 15, 2014 at 4:19 pm | Permalink

        Reply to reply:

        Then why not just say that! Another con!

  20. The PrangWizard
    Posted May 14, 2014 at 9:48 am | Permalink

    All I can do is hope shareholders vote against the takeover, at any price. If AstraZeneca goes American it will be yet another nail in our coffin. The US has enormous power over every aspect of our lives and our government, which they use against us all the time, they have no respect for us, they are not to be trusted. We are unable, and our political leaders are largely unwilling and afraid to challenge US power. I long for the day when someone has the courage to stand up to their arrogance. It’s time we got round to re-establishing some national pride and independence.

    • libertarian
      Posted May 14, 2014 at 10:37 pm | Permalink

      Prang Wizard

      Oh please give over. Find out some facts. The Swedish/Anglo American conglomerate Astra Zeneca has been 27% owned by Pfizer for years. Chauvinistic nonsense.

      We have 4.9 million companies in this country. The 4+ million SME’s are the backbone of our economy responsible for 80% of financial activity. A handful of multinational conglomerates has nothing to do with the overall wellbeing of this country.

      Back in the 1970’s we had a major computer company ICL that was protected by the UK govt. That worked well didn’t it? It destroyed the British computer industry.

      Government, politics and so called nationalistic interest has no place in business. We shouldn’t even have a Ministry for it BIS should be scrapped

    • stred
      Posted May 15, 2014 at 2:11 pm | Permalink

      For displays of sheer US arrogance, watch the statements of Mrs Nuland and the woman dealing with questions about foreign policy. It is quite chilling to hear them dismiss relevant questions from senators, as if they were children asking silly questions.

  21. Terry
    Posted May 14, 2014 at 9:49 am | Permalink

    The Labour party and their leadership remind me of the old rock band, ‘Simple Minds’.
    In name only, of course because they could never perform as well.

  22. forthurst
    Posted May 14, 2014 at 10:15 am | Permalink

    “There is something absurd about politicians demanding assurances that a company’s promise will be held to whatever happens next.”

    …especially if as with Pfizer/AstraZeneca, they not only will not be taking the decision, since they have already ceded that to faceless bureaucrats in Brussels, but they would also not be able to take any action should Pfizer fail to honour its promises.

    There are two important questions here: are decisions taken in Brussels sometimes more to the benefit of some states and to the detriment of others than might be expected purely by chance ie can Brussels be trusted, and since businesses cannot be held to their promises, and one has to assume that AstraZeneca shareholders are capable of holding out for at at least the present full value of their company, whether decisions on takeovers should not be taken on simple objective criteria, untrammelled by hollow promises demanded or extracted?

    Apart from the case of a failing business or one that is likely to fail through its inability to raise enough capital to continue to compete, there seem few objectively determined cases where takeovers involving established successful businesses would be beneficial to either innovation, competition, or employment, although they might create short term profits for hedge funds etc.

    Capitalists like to create monopolies, and drug companies hold monopolies of patent-protected drugs, and if monopolists can predate on the intellectual property of better run businesses as was the case with (name left out ed), they can survive in the market as predators rather than as the businesses with the competances they purport to possess, whilst reducing the overall level of innovation and competition in the industry as a whole.

    The series of bank mergers under the auspices of Gordon Brown reduced competition and created predatory monsters which were too big to fail. GEC and British Leyland were badly run conglomerates more concerned with takeovers than creating innovative well-run operations which failed when confronted with European competition on an equal basis.

    There is some idea that effective competition can be judged purely on market share. This is a nonsense: when a company holds patented IP, it cannot be used by a competitor except under licence; its market share is irrelevant. Competition in the UK grocery market was considered adequate judged on a percentage basis until two German companies demonstrated that the supermarkets were not competiting in a way which satisfied all UK customers etc. ie the market subsequently demonstrated that there was not adequate competition at all.

    Germany considers takeovers of their businesses a bad thing and since they have, as a result, more successful businesses than we, perhaps we should think the same.

  23. Neil Craig
    Posted May 14, 2014 at 10:19 am | Permalink

    Since you acknowledge there are tory broken promises it would be ungentlemanly to list them.

    I’m not sure UKIP have actually promised us winning the EU election would automatically mean a Brexit (though I would certainly defend any suggestion that it will help). UKIP are, of course, in the position of not having had to have our commitment to election promises tested. I hope that will be rectified soon. I hope we live up to it – I acknowledge it is sometimes difficult, but am sure we will be held to account by the others when it happens.

  24. lojolondon
    Posted May 14, 2014 at 10:29 am | Permalink

    Hilarious for any politician, but particularly Labour, to be asking a BUSINESSMAN for ‘solem and binding promises’. They never keep their own promises, the situation always changes, and they seldom keep their word.

    John, I know you are different, I like your actions with Ed Davey getting broadband for your constituents, that is really an MP’s job IMHO, rather than going on a trip to Mexico to understand the effects of the sun on the earth, for example!

  25. John E
    Posted May 14, 2014 at 10:30 am | Permalink

    You are right to point out the absurdity of the debate. Presumably some politicians feel the need to create some sound and fury rather than admit their impotence in this matter.

    The honest position is that the government creates the laws and sets the taxes, and the company management has the job of maximising returns within those laws. Asking them to do anything else is basically holding out a begging bowl or demanding money with menaces and is not an edifying sight.

  26. Mockbeggar
    Posted May 14, 2014 at 10:53 am | Permalink

    Of course, no government should interfere with the decisions of the owners of a corporate body – the shareholders (unless there is an overwhelming defence argument). Before any UK govt. goes down that route it should consider the likely consequences of the French govt. blocking the bid from GE for Alstrom.

    The UK govt. has some influence; it is, after all, probably the major customer for drugs from both Pfizer and AZ. In the end, even though the Swiss manager of AZ believes his company will be better off as an ‘independent’ body, he also can do no more than influence – albeit with some considerable authority – the decisons of the shareholders who are, in large part, pension funds rather than fat cats milking industry for personal gain at the expense of the masses. This is a fact that Mr Miliband conveniently forgets when drumming up the anti- business vote.

  27. Ray Veysey
    Posted May 14, 2014 at 12:31 pm | Permalink

    I was under the impression that because in fact both Pfizer and Astra Zenica are in fact international companies, that the decision over the viability of the offer was an EU decision. If this is so, why did not the PM (your PM) point this out at question time, and as he didn’t why wasn’t there a rush of those terrifying tory eurosceptics to point this out to him and the rest of us.

    • Ray Veysey
      Posted May 15, 2014 at 3:06 pm | Permalink

      I will assume from the lack of response that I am right, you have never been slow to tell me I am wrong before. So we now know that in fact the so called Eurosceptics in the house are sailing under false flags.
      Either “frit” or liars.

      Reply How many more times do I have to deny these malicious and unpleasant allegations?

  28. stred
    Posted May 14, 2014 at 12:33 pm | Permalink

    A relation of mine works in life science research and has to find commercial partners when a product developed in a university looks promising. US partners have been enthuiastic and even generous initially, but their system is ruthless in operation and the employees who were trusted lost their jobs in a takeover by a hedge fund backed company. American lawyers were brought in and the patent rights were re jigged in their favour. Eventually the project was dropped, as the company was redirected in more profitable directions. In contrast, European partners have been more reliable and not plagued by US lawyers.

  29. Denis Cooper
    Posted May 14, 2014 at 12:55 pm | Permalink

    Brazenly off-topic: I was planning to vote for UKIP on May 22nd, but having just got a leaflet in the post with a Dutch lady who has lost her seat in the Netherlands inviting me to vote for “An Independence From Europe” so that she can represent me rather than people in the Netherlands, and informing me that this new party will be at the top of the ballot paper, I now think that I won’t bother dragging the pencil all the way down to find UKIP near the bottom.

  30. Richard1
    Posted May 14, 2014 at 12:55 pm | Permalink

    This is another illustration of the complete lack of experience in, understanding of or sympathy with wealth creating business and industry of Labour politicians. I didn’t see the house of commons committee proceeding but I gather Ian Read ran rings round them. Even a Conservative member was grandstanding with silly insults to Mr Read to try to curry favor with the media.

    I assume Mr Read was too polite to ask Labour MPs present for a solemn and binding commitment not to raise corporation tax, nor to make the UK less attractive for talented employees by for example raising the top rate of income tax, raising CGT or introducing a property tax on homes in the south east of England. Or by fixing prices and coming up with other futile interventions in the economy.

    Mrs Hodge has been grandstanding again saying a pop singer should return his gong because he has lost a tax case. Should the head of HMRC have returned his if the case had gone the other way? Perhaps Mrs Hodge should apologise for supporting Gordon Brown’s huge expansion in the complexity of the tax system, along with other Labour MPs.

    • uanime5
      Posted May 15, 2014 at 12:24 am | Permalink

      I assume Mr Read was too polite to ask Labour MPs present for a solemn and binding commitment not to raise corporation tax, nor to make the UK less attractive for talented employees by for example raising the top rate of income tax, raising CGT or introducing a property tax on homes in the south east of England.

      He probably didn’t ask this because he would have been laughed out of the committee as he’s in no position to demand any of these things. By contrast the UK government can block this merger under UK law.

      Also most talented employees, such as scientists and engineers, don’t earn enough to pay the top rate of tax.

      Mrs Hodge has been grandstanding again saying a pop singer should return his gong because he has lost a tax case.

      If he lost his tax case does that mean his tax avoidance was actually tax evasion?

      • Richard1
        Posted May 15, 2014 at 8:14 am | Permalink

        The point is no company is in a position to make such solemn and binding undertakings on future employment without knowing how the investment climate will look in the future. If a Labour govt comes in and imposes anti-business, anti-wealth creation measures such as the higher taxes they have proposed, the UK will be a less attractive place to invest and employ people.

        No, someone who has lost a tax case has not been involved in evasion – it is a libel to suggest it so I suggest you withdraw the comment. Tax avoidance is something anyone who, eg, invests in a pension or an ISA, or who buys duty free engages in. The more complex the tax system the more avoidance scheme there will be. That’s why complex tax systems such as ours are such a waste.

        Tax evasion is knowingly not paying taxes which you have to under the law and is a criminal offence.

  31. Lindsay McDougall
    Posted May 14, 2014 at 2:12 pm | Permalink

    Quite right. Any promises made by Pfizer are not worth the paper they aren’t written on. If you add in the fact that only the unelected European Commission has a legal right to interfere in this takeover battle – and then only on loss of competition grounds – then the present questioning of Pfizer Executives by MPs is just so much posturing. Perhaps the questions and answers will influence the decisions of shareholders, but I suspect that the formal bid and rebuttal documents, when published, will have more influence.

    Meanwhile, shareholders might care to recall that successful hostile takeover bids usually result in the destruction of capital.

  32. dumpling
    Posted May 14, 2014 at 2:32 pm | Permalink

    You mentioned Labour’s ethical foreign policy intention. This was made by the Foreign Secretary at the time Robin Cook. When Blair decided to side with Bush and Rumsfeld to fight an illegal war based on a pack of lies, Robin Cook did the honourable thing and resigned. It was a great shame he died unexpectedly before he could take Blair to task as the disaster in Iraq was unfolding. I think Blair would have gone quite quickly otherwise.

  33. Bert Young
    Posted May 14, 2014 at 3:20 pm | Permalink

    I take your points about the difficulty of attempting to regulate promises – particularly the “hands tied” Parliament , however influence is a powerful weapon and can , and should , be applied in the Pfizer/Astra Zeneca case . The coming elections next week when UKIP will make substantial gains is another example – the outcome will influence the standing of the Conservative Party and will force it to adopt a much more eurosceptic response to Brussels . The pressure is already on the shareholders of Astra Zeneca and will definitely influence the outcome .

  34. Ex-expat Colin
    Posted May 14, 2014 at 3:24 pm | Permalink

    Professor Bengtsson suddenly resigned from GWPF today….see his scary letter here:

    This needs a hard look into…a very hard look at. This man appears to be being harassed for his scientific belief. I think he is frightened actually ! He joined GWPF about 3 weeks back…full of the joys of spring, so to speak.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted May 14, 2014 at 4:17 pm | Permalink

      Indeed it is appalling but I am not that surprised at all. The anth. global warming (catastophic exaggeration of) community are getting truly desperate.

      It is clear to all rational scientists that no one can predict the future climate accurately nor even the one for a week on Monday. Also as the climate on Monday affect it on Tuesday and so forth it is rather hard to predict it for 100 years. Rather like a game of snooker.

      Predictions about the distant future are impossible especially as you do not even know the suns output, volcanic activity, crop changes, genetic changes, agriculture changes, future populations, feedback mechanisms, technological developments & inventions, and countless other unknowables for 100 years.

      Still the husky hugger fell for it or perhaps just though it was a good vote scam like his toy wind turbine in windless Notting Hill.

      • uanime5
        Posted May 15, 2014 at 12:32 am | Permalink

        It is clear to all rational scientists that no one can predict the future climate accurately nor even the one for a week on Monday.

        Then why were all these rational scientists able to predict how the climate was likely to change in all the IPCC reports? Could it be because scientists can produce accurate predictions but you don’t like what they’re saying.

        Predictions about the distant future are impossible especially as you do not even know the suns output, volcanic activity, crop changes, genetic changes, agriculture changes, future populations, feedback mechanisms, technological developments & inventions, and countless other unknowables for 100 years.

        All the things you mentioned are easy to predict. The sun’s output follows an 11 year cycle, it’s possible to factor in the effects of volcanic activity, crops in Africa have shown that they can’t adapt to the increased heat which is why there’s more famines, populations increases can be predicted (unless a new super-virus wipes out most of the population), scientists are considering feedback mechanisms in their predictions, and a belief that technology will be able to fix over a century of CO2 emissions is naive.

        • Edward2
          Posted May 16, 2014 at 1:23 pm | Permalink

          You keep repeating things which have previously been shown to be incorrect Uni
          In this post you repeat that there are more famines in Africa (caused by “climate change”) when simple research on the web shows that African agricultural output has been rising not falling.

    • Denis Cooper
      Posted May 14, 2014 at 4:25 pm | Permalink

      That’s a bit like the sort of thing that happened when Lysenko held sway in the USSR, except that some opponents were sent to camps and executed.

    • uanime5
      Posted May 15, 2014 at 12:38 am | Permalink

      This needs a hard look into…a very hard look at. This man appears to be being harassed for his scientific belief. I think he is frightened actually ! He joined GWPF about 3 weeks back…full of the joys of spring, so to speak.

      The GWPF (Global Warming Policy Foundation) is a climate change denier organisation launched by Lord Lawson, so it’s no surprise that real scientists shunned anyone who had anything to do with such an anti-scientific organisation.

      • Richard1
        Posted May 15, 2014 at 8:20 am | Permalink

        What this shows is how climate science has been politicised – the left’s historic no-platform technique is invoked to try to shut down debate. It is clear that there are many scientists such as Prof Bengtsson who are sceptical of the climate consensus and the policies which have been adopted because of it. The environmental left don’t want a proper debate amongst informed people as they know the evidence is so mixed, so they try to shut down debate with the kind of insults you use. Happily it wont work. The truth will out.

      • David Price
        Posted May 15, 2014 at 11:24 am | Permalink

        So you agree that the pro-AGM people have lost the argument and must now resort to intimidation and other tactics of desperation?

        If AGW was backed by proper evidence and fact then these people who have “shunned” the retired professor would simply have had to rely on that evidence and facts. Why go down the relatively dangerous path that they have?

      • Edward2
        Posted May 15, 2014 at 1:36 pm | Permalink

        The organisation is not “anti-science”

        It may criticise and probe the validity of the current group think on this subject, which I realise you dislike anyone being allowed to do, but without those who are prepared to take a minority opposing view, science would never have moved forward.

        Science is never settled.

      • oldtimer
        Posted May 15, 2014 at 6:14 pm | Permalink

        The GWPF is not “an anti-scientific organisation” as you describe it. Several distinguished scientists are members of its advisory board. In fact it is very pro science in the traditional sense that hypotheses need to be validated by actual observations of nature or by experimentation. It is anti the so-called post norma science that relies on untested hypotheses that are based on inadequate computer models that are the foundation of so much “climate science”.

        The hounding of Professor Bengtstrom does indeed look like an early 21stC version of McCarthyism.

  35. miami.mode
    Posted May 14, 2014 at 7:05 pm | Permalink

    The whole point of running a company is to make money and keep it in business. The fact that you can offer a public good comes as a secondary benefit although it does of course assist the main point.

    Mr Cameron says that tax avoidance on a grand scale is morally repugnant and as Pfizer has admitted that the bid is partially driven by tax-free cash held in various countries I guess it’s not so repugnant if it brings in £60+bn of foreign cash rather than do it the hard way by exports – see your recent post about selling the family silver.

    I find Mr Cameron and many of his cronies are typical of those who know the cost of everything (except a pint of milk of course) and the value of practically nothing and I would include in “value” the self respect of being independent and out of the EU.

  36. uanime5
    Posted May 15, 2014 at 12:39 am | Permalink

    Labour wants “solemn and binding” guarantees from Pfizer that it will never sack a British worker if it takes over Astra Zeneca, and will invest large sums in research facilities at Cambridge.

    In other words Labour wants to prevent Pfizer asset stripping Astra Zeneca. Odd the Conservatives are objecting to a British company being protected.

    There is something absurd about politicians demanding assurances that a company’s promise will be held to whatever happens next.

    Well you could always campaign for a clause where Pfizer can obtain an amendment via arbitration if the situation changes.

    We do not want a Pfizer promise like the Lib Dem one to rule out tuition fees for university students

    Or the Conservatives’ promise that they wouldn’t perform a major reorganisation of the NHS.

    In the case of Pfizer, what happens if the CEO changes from the one making the promsie?

    The simplest way to get round this problem is to have the CEO make the promise on behalf of Pfizer. Thus even if the CEO changes Pfizer will still be bound by this promise.

    Of course if the promise isn’t legally binding then this issue is moot because the current CEO doesn’t even have to obey it.

    • Edward2
      Posted May 15, 2014 at 1:26 pm | Permalink

      You can demand all the promises you like Uni, but if in the future their customers move away and decide to buy from another company and sales fall then these promises cannot be met.
      The power is more in the hands of the customers.
      The Directors can only state what their intentions are.

  37. David Price
    Posted May 15, 2014 at 7:23 am | Permalink

    Expecting such binding commitments from a global company is naive and to believe that any agreement is invoilable is inept, politicians renege on agreements all the time for a variety of reasons. That such expectations come from Westminster is no surprise given the influence of lawyers.

    We need a large proportion of Westminster MPs to have had experience in small and large business. especially global companies to translate their understanding of the corporate world into advantages for the UK.

  38. Tad Davison
    Posted May 15, 2014 at 3:31 pm | Permalink

    ‘Sometimes parties promise things they know they cannot possibly carry out, like UKIP promising to take us out of the EU if we vote for them in the European elections.’

    And then there are politicians who promise things, but don’t do them once they are able to. And you expect us once former Tory voters to stay loyal to a Tory party headed by Cameron with his track record?

    Sorry, you fail to convince me. The Tories are still a part of the failed and untrustworthy political class and I’m still voting UKIP!

    Tad Davison


    • Richard1
      Posted May 16, 2014 at 8:01 am | Permalink

      It doesn’t matter in the Euro election, although bear in mind that in practice UKIP MEPs do nothing to stop encroaching Euro federalism by not voting, whereas Conservative MEPs do. But if you vote UKIP in the General Election and facilitate a Miliband Govt you may as well emigrate now to France and see how it works there.

  • About John Redwood

    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, He graduated from Magdalen College Oxford, has a DPhil and is a fellow of All Souls College. A businessman by background, he has been a director of NM Rothschild merchant bank and chairman of a quoted industrial PLC.

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