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Political Advertising

Volume 670: debated on Wednesday 22 January 2020

5. What assessment he has made of the level of accuracy of political advertising in the 2019 general election. (900327)

Thank you very much for that helpful clarification, Mr Speaker.

We do not assess or regulate political arguments, which can be rebutted as part of normal debate. In a free democracy it is for voters to decide on the value of those political arguments, but we think that our regulation should empower voters to do so and be modernised. That is why we are taking forward the digital imprints regime, which I just referred to.

Thank you, Mr Speaker—I will go again. According to the international fact-checking agency First Draft News, almost 90% of the ads posted on Facebook by the Tory party in the general election were misleading. Does the Minister agree with the Information Commissioner that the current electoral laws on digital campaigning are not fit for purpose?

I welcome the hon. Gentleman back to his place and back to Question No. 5. I think I dealt with the point about regulation in my response, but I am afraid I have to add that the report that he refers to is entirely discredited. I think he misses the point in another way as well: we trust voters to make their decisions on political arguments, and in the biggest decision of all voters chose the Conservatives to take matters forward.

I am sure that the Minister would agree that the UK should lead with best practice when it comes to political campaigning. If she is confident that the Tory party adverts were beyond reproach during the general election, why will she not ask the Electoral Commission to conduct an independent review of political advertising?

I welcome the hon. Lady to her place on the Opposition Front Bench; this is the first time that I have engaged in questions with her. I think that, in her question, she misunderstands the fundamental nature of independence. I am not in a position, and neither is any Minister, to direct the Electoral Commission, and nor should we be. Moreover, she entirely misses the point; the voters took their choice on the validity of the arguments put at the general election, and her side’s were not good enough.