MPs are to debate the controversial $40bn (£31bn) sale of the UK’s biggest tech company, Arm Holdings, after assurances from its US buyer failed to quell lingering concern that the deal will harm British interests.
Jensen Huang, the founder and chief executive of California-based tech firm Nvidia, moved to allay fears about the transaction on Friday, publicly declaring himself willing to offer legally binding guarantees on jobs and investment.
Huang is also understood to have made personal representations to UK government officials at the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.
The department is headed by the culture secretary, Oliver Dowden, who has the power to “call in” the takeover for a review of whether it would harm the national interest.
Dowden has yet to act, despite concerns expressed by trade unions, Labour and Arm’s co-founder Hermann Hauser.
With pressure mounting on the government to intervene, Labour MP Daniel Zeichner, whose Cambridge constituency includes Arm’s headquarters, said he had secured a debate scheduled for this Monday, at which MPs will discuss the deal.
“The government have been painfully quiet about the acquisition of a strategic national asset by a foreign company so I am pleased to have secured this debate so a minister must to come to the dispatch box to explain themselves,” said Zeichner.
“This is a serious matter and decisions taken will have a big impact on the role of the UK in the production of global technology.
“I want to know what action the government is taking to safeguard Arm’s neutrality from an American company that is eyeing up the tech.
“If Arm becomes a US subsidiary of a US company, then Donald Trump will gain extraordinary powers over which foreign businesses can use Arm-designed chips.”
“I find it bizarre that the government would want to give away such powers at any time, but particularly ahead of a trade negotiation. We also need guarantees on keeping high-skilled jobs in Cambridge.”
Zeichner and Hauser have raised fears that US ownership would expose Arm to US legislation that allows the White House to intervene in transactions with overseas companies.
Nvidia is understood to have told the UK government that these fears are unjustified because nothing about the transaction would expose the company to the whims of Trump or a successor.
In an interview with the Times, Huang promised to sign a pledge to keep UK jobs and invest in Arm.
“There’s no possibility that Arm’s headcount will fall,” he said.
“It will increase, but we just don’t know exactly by how much and how quickly. We’ll work on the plans over the coming months and will make them legally binding.”