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Uber secretly lobbied ministers to influence London’s transport policy – report

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Uber secretly lobbied ministers to influence London’s transport policy, it has been reported.

Leaked documents show lobbyists for the ride-sharing app company met then-chancellor George Osborne and other ministers, according to the BBC.

The “undeclared” meetings took place after Boris Johnson, as mayor of London, had promised to launch a review that could have limited Uber’s expansion in the capital.

A spokesman for Mr Osborne said “all business meetings where policy affecting individual companies was discussed were properly declared”.

A man using the Uber app on his mobile phone
Uber launched in the UK in London in 2012 (Matt Alexander/PA)

The meeting with Uber took place at a private dinner in the US state of California, where the company is based.

An internal Uber email stated that this was better than a meeting in London because “this is a much more private affair with no hanger-on officials or staffers”, the BBC reported.

Other meetings were held between Uber lobbyists and current or former ministers including Priti Patel, Sajid Javid, Matt Hancock and Michael Gove, according to the corporation.

Mr Johnson ultimately abandoned his review, and Uber was able to increase its number of drivers in London.

An Uber spokeswoman said: “Engaging with policymakers is standard practice for businesses, and Uber fulfils all of its obligations to disclose its lobbying when required to do so.

“In turn, it is the responsibility of elected officials to disclose meetings when they are required to do so.”

Ministers insist rules were followed, the BBC said.

Mr Osborne’s spokesman said: “The premise of this investigation is wrong.

“Far from being secret, it was the explicit and publicly-announced policy of the coalition government to meet with global tech businesses, persuade them to invest in Britain and create jobs here.

“It was a policy that made the UK the tech capital of Europe.

“All business meetings where policy affecting individual companies was discussed were properly declared – something no previous administration did.

“While the government inherited from its predecessors a tax code that meant the tech companies paid little tax, it was George Osborne as chancellor who – with Germany – initiated the international OECD negotiations to change that, a process which led to the widely welcomed global agreement last year.”

Mr Javid denied having any undisclosed meetings with Uber while he was business secretary.

At a press conference to launch his Tory leadership campaign, he said: “Any meetings that I would have had with Uber would have been reported. So if they have not been reported in the ministerial transparency declarations, then I didn’t have them.”

In October last year, some 136 countries and jurisdictions agreed to impose a minimum corporate tax rate of 15% by 2023.

The Uber files were leaked to the Guardian and shared with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and several media organisations, including BBC Panorama.

They reportedly also show extensive lobbying of other European politicians, including French President Emmanuel Macron in August 2014 when he was minister for the economy, and ex-EU commissioner Neelie Kroes.

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