Microsoft accused of threatening MPs over IT reforms

May 26, 2015 // 11:29 a.m.

Tags: #conservative-party #government #microsoft #politics #steve-hilton

Microsoft has found itself accused of putting financial pressure on members of parliament to reject plans to switch to a cross-platform open document standard, threatening to close down local facilities.

In a whistleblowing piece in the Guardian, former Conservative party strategy chief Steve Hilton has accused Microsoft of directly calling members of parliament whose local constituencies included Microsoft facilities and threatening closures and resultant job losses unless they oppose moves to shift government IT away from Microsoft's proprietary formats to open standards and to prefer open-source solutions during contract tendering. 'When we proposed this [move], 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,"' Hilton claimed at an event in Westminster.

'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,' Hilton continued. 'We just resisted. You have to be brave. You just have to say sorry: it’s the right thing to do.'

Hilton's comments, it must be noted, were made during an event in which he was promoting a book he has written, but echo those made by Rohan Silva, another senior advisor to David Cameron, in October last year as reported by Computer Weekly. Microsoft, for its part, has refused to comment on the matter.

If true, Microsoft's threats came to naught: the UK government formally adopted ODF, PDF and HTML in July 2014 as a move to improve interoperability and cut ties to proprietary software vendors.
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