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Electoral Commission Committee

Volume 690: debated on Thursday 4 March 2021

The hon. Member for City of Chester, representing the Speakers Committee on the Electoral Commission, was asked—

Third-party Campaigners: Regulation

If the Electoral Commission will investigate the potential merits of strengthening regulations on third-party campaigners. (912858)

Third party campaigners are a vital part of a healthy democracy and play a significant role in providing voters with information, but it is important that their spending and funding are transparent. The Electoral Commission continues to support the introduction of imprint requirements for digital campaign material and changes that would strengthen its ability to access information quickly about who has placed campaign material online. These changes would help provide transparency for voters and ensure that third party campaigners and others complied with the political finance laws established by Parliament--.

May I ask my hon. Friend to convey to the Electoral Commission, on behalf of a number of us in the House, the need for an urgent, more serious and in-depth inquiry into third party campaigning, particularly in respect of its role in the last general election? Will he refer the Electoral Commission to the report by openDemocracy that exposed groups such as Capitalist Worker and Campaign Against Corbynism, and the roles of Thomas Borwick, the deputy chairman of the Cities of London and Westminster Conservative Association, and Jennifer Powers, a former Conservative intern, who spent large sums on a social media advertising campaign smearing my right hon. Friend the Member for Islington North (Jeremy Corbyn) without declaring the source of their funds? This warrants a full inquiry and reform.

The Commission is aware of occasions and allegations in the past where people who might not have been expected to have a certain amount of resource were suddenly able to spend that resource. It assures me that it monitors the activity of non-party campaigners and where there is evidence that the law has not been followed, it will consider the matter, in line with its enforcement policy. I assure my right hon. Friend that I will pass on that message to the Commission.