As Pfizer's approach for AstraZeneca turns into a political matter, the UK government is exploring all options including intervention into any proposed deal.

Addressing the House of Commons, business secretary Vince Cable said the government will "approach it from the position of even-handed neutrality and recognise that it is ultimately a matter for the shareholders of both companies". However, he added that one of  its options "would be to consider using our public interest test powers. That would be a serious step, and not one that should be taken lightly".

Mr Cable went on to say that "I am open-minded about that, while stressing that we are operating within serious European legal constraints". He claimed that "we are alive to the national interest considerations in this regard [and] we see the future of the UK as a knowledge economy, not a tax haven".

Shadow business secretary Chuka Umunna responded by saying that the issue is not whether the prospective takeover is a foreign one "but whether the transaction will be good for jobs and growth in the UK [and] will protect Britain’s knowledge, research and skills base".

The Commons Science and Technology Committee and the Business Committee will both hold inquiries into the potential takeover, with executives from Pfizer and AstraZeneca expected to give evidence.