Lord Heseltine, the former deputy prime minister, has said the government should intervene in foreign takeovers of British companies in order to secure local jobs
Heseltine was referring in particular to the ongoing Pfizer takeover of AstraZeneca. He told the BBC that he feared for the UK's medical industry and science base and for the firm's 6,700 UK-based employees.
"There are so many issues about the science base, about the supply chains, about employment prospects that ought to be explored and I don't see any way in which this can be adequately done unless the government has reserve powers," he said.
Heseltine, who founded the publishing company Haymarket in the 1960s and is an economic adviser to prime minister David Cameron, said he is not opposed to foreign takeovers, but that the UK should follow the lead of other major economies and vet major foreign buyers to safeguard British interests.
However, universities and science minister David Willetts has suggested that the government will not block Pfizer's takeover, saying that the decision to accept the deal was in the hands of AstraZeneca shareholders.
He said: "We have been having very tough conversations with Pfizer and have made it very clear to them that the British government attaches great importance to research and development activities happening here in Britain and also manufacturing."
It's not the first time Heseltine has voiced such a view. In his review of the government's industrial policy in 2012, he urged the government to take a tougher line on foreign takeovers "to ensure our long-term industrial capabilities are given proper consideration".
Viagra manufacturer Pfizer has today raised its offer for AstraZeneca to £50 per share in a bid to force the deal through. It has said that it will relocate its headquarters to the UK and make significant investments in research facilities.