Microsoft accused of blackmailing MPs, again

Some Microsoft executives apparently phoned Conservative MPs, threatening they would shut down a facility in their local area, because of planned reforms in the IT sector, The Guardian reports.

David Cameron’s former strategy chief Steve Hilton mentioned this as he was speaking about the dominance of corporate lobbying in the UK.

Hilton worked for Cameron in opposition and two years in Downing Street, and he says the lobbying was leading to bad policy-making.

Asked how the government should deal with lobbyists, he said: “You just have to fight them off. 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. We just resisted. You have to be brave. You just have to say sorry: it’s the right thing to do.”

Rohan Silva, who was a senior advisor to David Cameron on digital policy, basically said the same thing back in October 2014: “A day or two before we were going to give the speech, a couple of backbench MPs called the office – they said Microsoft had called them saying if we went ahead with the speech on open standards, open architecture and open source, they would cut spending or maybe close research and development centres in the constituencies of the MPs they had called.“

Asked about the claims made by Hilton, a Microsoft spokeswoman said the company had “nothing to share”.