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Digital Campaigning: Regulation

Volume 684: debated on Thursday 26 November 2020

The Electoral Commission works proactively to regulate digital campaigning under the rules currently set out in law. It publishes data on digital spending by campaigners to provide transparency for voters, monitors online campaigning activity and supports campaigners with targeted advice. In 2018, it published a comprehensive package of recommendations that would increase transparency for voters, and it continues to recommend changes that would help voters have confidence about online campaigning.

I thank the hon. Member for that answer. The reality is that we know that Vote Leave did all sorts of myth-spreading using digital campaigning. The same people then moved and masterminded the Tory 2019 general election campaign, so it is no wonder that the UK Government have not done anything yet to change the rules. Does the commission agree that there has to be not only better regulation, but fines that go beyond business-as-usual amounts, so that they are a real deterrent to myth-spreading online?

The commission has recommended that its current maximum fine of £20,000 per offence should be reviewed to ensure that it is proportionate to the income and expenditure of parties and campaigners. As a Member from Scotland, the hon. Gentleman may have noticed that the Scottish Parliament recently increased the commission’s maximum fine for Scottish referendums to £500,000. The commission continues to recommend that its sanctioning powers should be updated by other Governments and for other polls, to provide a more proportionate regime.