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Digital Election Campaigning: Transparency

Volume 676: debated on Tuesday 19 May 2020

To ask the hon. Member for City of Chester, representing the Speaker’s Committee on the Electoral Commission, what recent discussions the Committee has had with the Commission on improving transparency in digital election campaigning. (902811)

At its meeting on 24 March, the committee approved the commission’s interim corporate plan, which includes plans to address voter concerns about digital campaigning. The commission’s recent report on the 2019 general election highlighted significant public concerns about the transparency of digital election campaigns, which risk overshadowing their benefits. The commission has set out actions that parties, campaigners, Governments and social media companies should take to support trust and confidence at future elections. The actions include extending the imprint rules for printed materials to digital campaign materials so that voters know who is trying to influence them.

This follows on from what the hon. Member for Wellingborough (Mr Bone) asked earlier. Last week, he said the Electoral Commission, which, as my hon. Friend said, is asked to do this important work on digital campaigning, was “arrogant”, “incompetent” and

“politically corrupt, totally biased and morally bankrupt”.—[Official Report, 13 May 2020; Vol. 676, c. 246.]

This was because it had the nerve to enforce the law and fine Vote Leave £61,000. Would the committee agree that to try to intimidate an independent electoral body in this way is more in the tradition of the politicians of Zimbabwe than of Britain?

The Electoral Commission has a regulatory role and regulatory authority which are the same as those of many regulators throughout the United Kingdom. I suggest that the track record of the Electoral Commission is one that perhaps does not bear some of the description that has just been repeated. In the past five years, it has carried out approximately 500 investigations into a variety of electoral offences. Only five of those have been challenged in the courts and only one challenge has been upheld.