( bottom right), Labour MP for South Thanet (whose constituency includes a Pfizer plant ). House of Commons, 13 April.

'My right honourable friend the secretary for trade and industry is working hard to encourage the company to make further investments... However, the company, like other pharmaceutical firms, is beginning to feel underappreciated...

'The industry is also worried about changes in the pharmaceutical price regulation scheme, although it has been reassured by recent statements that the new agreement would be introduced after full discussion and, as far as possible, on a oluntary basis.'

Extracts from reply by health minister John Denham (top right)

'As a government, we do fully accept the importance of the UK pharmaceutical industry to this country. Only last week, at the ABPI annual dinner, my right honourable friend the secretary of state described the industry as 'quite brilliant'. The government unequivocally supports the industry...

'We do want to reach a voluntary agreement on the pharmaceutical price regulation scheme, but the Health Bill will enable us to back it by statute if necessary. Above all, the PPRS - voluntary or backed by statute - has, and will continue to have, the joint aims of fair prices for the NHS which represent good value for money, and fair prices or profits on NHS sales for the industry, which represents a reasonable return on the enormous investment that goes into pharmaceutical research and development and of course helps to fund future R&D.'