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Electoral Commission Committee

Volume 663: debated on Thursday 25 July 2019

The hon. Member for Houghton and Sunderland South, representing the Speaker’s Committee on the Electoral Commission, was asked—

Spending on Digital Campaigning

3. What recent discussions she has had with the commission on reporting spending on digital campaigning in elections. (912173)

Transparency around spending on campaigning at elections helps voters to have confidence that campaigners follow the rules and limits on spending. Earlier this week, the Electoral Commission presented to Government statutory codes of practice on candidate and political party spending. If enacted, these codes will provide further clarity and consistency in reporting election spending, including on digital campaigning.

I thank the hon. Lady for that answer. That concurs with reports from the Select Committee on Digital, Culture, Media and Sport and the Electoral Commission, which are clear that the law on digital political advertising badly needs updating. Some people have called for a database of online political ads, giving full information on content, target and reach, and spend. That should guarantee transparency. Is the hon. Lady aware of measures being taken to reform the law, and does she share my concern that so many people from Vote Leave who abused the system are now in the UK Government?

The social media companies’ voluntary ad libraries and reports are useful tools in monitoring who is spending money on elections and other political campaigning. In its response to the online harms consultation, the commission recommended that the new regulator ensure common standards and obligations on what social media companies publish about political adverts and that there be significant sanctions if companies do not publish meaningful information.

Following the exoneration of Darren Grimes in a recent court case, what confidence does the Speaker’s Committee on the Electoral Commission have in the commission?

In the past four years, the commission has carried out approximately 450 investigations into a variety of electoral offences. The results of five of these have been challenged in the courts, and the recent appeal is the only challenge that has been upheld. The commission will review the full written detail of the judgment once it is made public, before deciding on next steps, including any appeal.