UK Government accused of breaching state aid rules in software procurement

On Tuesday, John Pugh MP led an adjournment debate on IT software procurement, where he accused the UK government of excluding Linux and Mac Users from government services such as the Department of Work and Pensions online benefits system.

“The Government are spending public money, and in doing so, it is difficult to see how they are not also breaching state aid rules and providing illegal state aid. If someone cannot access benefits online without using a Windows-based computer, as is currently the case, I do not see how the Government can be doing anything other than involving themselves in illegal state aid.”

Angela Eagle MP, speaking on behalf of the Treasury, neatly side-stepped Pugh’s accusations, stating that “the Government must… provide software that is relevant to the computers that most people in the UK have” and that avoiding market distortion was “up to the people contracting”. The debate is reminiscent of concerns about the BBC’s Microsoft-only iPlayer raised by the Open Source Consortium, the Free Software Foundation, the Open Rights Group and many others over the Summer.

Also during the debate (well-spotted, Glyn!) it looked like Andrew Miller MP might have raised the spectre of Microsoft’s failed OOXML standard, when he asked:

“Would it not help in the quest for openness if the British Standards Institution were to follow the lead in other parts of the world and make open source XML (sic) one of the standards to be applied throughout the world? It would mean that people working outside the Microsoft sphere could have access to the code, and it would help the world in future-proofing big projects such as the British Library archives.”

You can read a full transcript of the debate here.