Google gave UK government communications staff a lesson in PR days after it agreed a controversial tax deal with HM Revenue and Customs, The Sun reports.
Google gives similar lessons to a number of organisations that want to learn how to communicate over the internet.
But government officials have expressed their anger over the arrangement, suggesting that the meeting should never have taken place.
The Mountain View internet giant reportedly gave 18 “up and coming” civil servants in the Government Communications Service a half day seminar at one of its London offices.
The Sun said it understands that the seminar was on “digital media” and provided advice on “communicating in the digital age.”
Senior civil servants such as Alex Aiken, executive director of government communications, took the decision that the seminar should go ahead as initially planned despite concerns that it could attract unwanted attention. Aiken is also reported to have attended the seminar.
A number of MPs criticised the encounter as Google execs prepared to be grilled by a parliamentary committee on Thursday over the tax deal. Those being questioned include Google Europe’s president Matt Brittin and Google vice president Tom Hutchinson.
Former Public Accounts Committee chairman and MP Dame Margaret Hodge told The Sun: “This is just awful. It’s an insult and evidence of an arrogance and insensitivity towards ordinary taxpayers that government should even dream that this is appropriate behaviour.
“These people are not paying their taxes and yet they are trying to woo civil servants.”
Labour MP Jonathan Ashworth added: “We already know of the close links between ministers and Google, but this is evidence of the cosy relationship between the company and government and raises serious questions.
“It is now time we have full transparency of all links and meetings between the Government and Google.”
A Whitehall source cited by The Sun said the 18 attendees were selected because they are considered “future leaders.”
A Cabinet Office spokesman told The Sun: “Eighteen members of the Government Communications Service attended a half-day seminar on digital media at Google’s headquarters last week. There was no cost to the taxpayer.”
Business Insider has contacted Google for comment on the story and is waiting to hear back.
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