Drug giant Pfizer to pull out of Kent
by business editor Trevor Sturgess
MPs and council bosses have reacted with horror today to
drugs giant Pfizer's decision to pull out of Kent and
cut 2,400 jobs.
In what will be a devastating blow to the East Kent and wider
Kent economy, the US-based company announced its intention to quit
the world-renowned research site at Sandwich.
is after more than 50 years of having a presence there.
The shock decision is part of a global programme of changes
which it says will accelerate Pfiizer's long-term research and
As part of this global strategy Pfizer is planning to exit
certain therapeutic areas, including Allergy & Respiratory,
which is based at Sandwich.
Pfizer said that most of the 2,400 jobs would be made redundant
over the next two years, although some might be transferres to
Dr Ruth McKernan, Senior Vice President and Site Head at
Sandwich, said: "It is with a deep sense of sadness that we
announce our proposal to exit our site in Sandwich, Kent.
"It has played an important role in the discovery and
development of medicines and has brought many life-saving
treatments to patients.
Pfizer Research and
Development boss speaks out about pull-out
"Sandwich has an extremely talented workforce with a proud and
rich history in science research and development.
"This decision is no reflection on the site, the workforce or
the operating environment in the UK.
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"We recognise that this is a difficult time for colleagues and
the community and our priority now, and over the coming weeks and
months, is to support our people through this process.
"It is hoped that we can retain this proud R&D heritage
through strategic partnerships in the future."
Reacting to the announcement, MP Laura Sandys for South Thanet
said: "It is a body blow to the area.
"It is going to be very very difficult for the employees and the
so many of our small businesses there.
"We have 18-to-24 months before they leave and it is crucial we
spend every minute between now and then focusing on getting the
right sort of investment back into the site."
"We are setting up a task force to address the issues of inward
"It is a world class site and we need to have a very clear plan
to attract new businesses to the site and businesses that will
employ the world class staff that there is at Pfizer."
"We have the opportunity to look at new green technologies and
IT... it has the capacity to offer a lot to
internationally-renowned companies on terms of location and
"But it is going to be difficult and
what it requires is absolute determination."
Folkestone and Hythe MP Damian Collins said the decision added
pressure on the government to allow a third nuclear power station
He said: "It makes the case for supporting high-tech businesses
in East Kent even more strongly.
"I will certainly make the point to my colleagues and to the
ministers that we need to look at how we can generate new jobs in
the area and work with the industries we already have.
"Dungeness is a perfect example of that."
Mr Collins added Kent MPs would be able to discuss the issue at
a meeting with transport minister Theresa Villiers today at
He continued: "I have spoken to [Pfizer Managing Director]
Richard Blackburn today and he says they're hopeful they might find
another company that is willing to take over the site.
"I know Pfizer have already been in touch with [Dover and Deal
MP] Charlie Elphicke and [Thanet North MP] Roger Gale."
Vince Cable, Secretary of State for Business Innovation and
Skills, said: "It is extremely disappointing that Pfizer has
decided to end its research and development activity at its site in
"The company has been clear that this decision was part of its
global programme of change and not based on a judgement of the UK
as a location for pharmaceutical research.
"I am establishing a local taskforce under the leadership of
Kent County Council to work with Pfizer and the new Local
to read special report as it develops
"David Willetts, Andrew Lansley and I will work closely with the
taskforce in the coming months to ensure every possible effort is
made to mitigate the impact of Pfizer's decision on local jobs and
the local communities.
"We will also be meeting with Pfizer, other key companies and
local representatives as a matter of urgency to discuss innovative
ideas for continuing R&D activities in this very well equipped
facility, and how the key strands of the R&D portfolio based at
Sandwich can best engage with academic teams across the UK who have
the potential to drive forward the most innovative areas of UK
"This country is an attractive location for the life sciences
industry and with R&D tax credits and our plans to introduce a
Patent Box, the government is committed to ensuring the UK is the
destination of choice for investment, research and growth."
John Denham MP, Labour's Shadow Business Secretary, said:
"This is a deeply worrying development.
"Pharmaceuticals must be a sector where Britain’s world
reputation secures jobs and growth for the future.
"Although Pfizer say this is a global decision, we need to
ask whether government ministers knew about these plans, whether
they met Pfizer, and whether they made any efforts to save this
work and these jobs.
"This Conservative-led government has no plan for jobs or
growth; we cannot afford to lose global industries as easily as
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