Microsoft threatened job cuts to influence UK government IT policy
By threatening to implement job cuts in affected parts of the country, Microsoft tried to influence UK government IT policy. The company stands accused of trying to blackmail members of parliament when it disagreed with planned IT reforms.
The claims come from Prime Minister David Cameron's former strategy chief, Steve Hilton. He says Microsoft telephoned politicians in areas that the company has research and development departments with the threat of "we will close them down in your constituency if this goes through". And it seems that Microsoft is not alone in this sort of activity.
Hilton says that other technology companies adopted similar tactics in a bid to block policy changes that would not have worked in their favor. This is not the first time Microsoft has had accusations of interference leveled at it. The company has long opposed the adoption of open document standards and Computer Weekly reported last year about apparent threats from Microsoft if politicians spoke in favor of open source software and standards.
Asked by the Guardian about companies trying to exert influence, Hilton said:
I can give you specific examples: the thing I mentioned about IT contracts. Maybe there is someone here to confirm this from Microsoft? When we proposed this, Microsoft phoned Conservative MPs with Microsoft R&D facilities in their constituencies and said, 'we will close them down in your constituency if this goes through'. And we had the same from other tech companies as well … We had the stories from the MPs saying I’ve just had this call from -- sometimes a global CEO -- phoning a Conservative MP, saying we will close down this plant.
The Guardian reports that Microsoft has "nothing to share" on the matter. We have also reached out for a comment and will update the story when we hear back.
We have heard from Microsoft, and a spokesperson says:
We have looked into the nearly decade-old matter and we don't recognise these claims. Fundamentally, it is not how we operate as a business. We have an honest and open engagement with the government and this is how we will continue to work with it.