Uber secretly lobbied ministers, leaked files show

Uber Files Sundry Photography / Shutterstock.com

Uber secretly lobbied government ministers when the ride-hailing giant was looking to ramp up its expansion in the UK market, leaked files show.

Between 2014 and 2016 at least six Conservative ministers did not declare that they attended meetings with Uber, the leaked documents show, including then chancellor George Osborne.

The revelations come through a trove of leaked files – totalling 124,000 internal Uber records – that have been shared with the Guardian, the BBC and the Consortium of Investigative Journalists.

They show a targeted influence campaign by US-headquartered Uber amid its aggressive global expansion.

The documents show that Osborne allegedly held a secret meeting with Uber in California in 2014.

A spokesperson for Osborne 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.

“All business meetings where policy affecting individual companies was discussed were properly declared.”

The BBC reported that then-London mayor Boris Johnson was the “ultimate target” of Uber’s lobbying strategy.

The files show that Uber lobbyists also met with home secretary Priti Patel, Sajid Javid, Michael Gove, former health secretary Matt Hancock and Ed Vaizey.

Rules in place at the time required ministers to publish “at least quarterly” any meetings they have with people and organisations.

The ministers identified by the leak, dubbed the “Uber Files”, say that all lobbying rules were followed.

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.”

Uber first arrived in London but has faced backlash from black cab drivers for driving down prices.

In 2017, Uber lost its license to operate in London after Transport for London said it was “not fit and proper”.

It was then granted a series of temporary licenses as it sought to prove that it had addressed safety concerns.

The allegations outlined in the Uber Files took place while the company was being run by its co-founder Travis Kalanick.

Uber hired current CEO Dara Khosrowshahi in 2017 in a bid to reverse the company’s fortunes.

In a statement, Jill Hazelbaker, SVP of marketing and public affairs at Uber, said: “Dara rewrote the company’s values, revamped the leadership team, made safety a top company priority, implemented best-in-class corporate governance, hired an independent board chair, and installed the rigorous controls and compliance necessary to operate as a public company.”

Hazelbaker added that “90% of current Uber employees joined after Dara became CEO”.