Intimidation in Public Life

Cabinet Office and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster – in the House of Commons on 13th March 2019.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Nicky Morgan Nicky Morgan Chair, Treasury Committee

What assessment he has made of trends in the level of intimidation of people in public life.

Photo of Chloe Smith Chloe Smith The Parliamentary Secretary, Cabinet Office, Assistant Whip

The increasing prevalence of intimidation in public life can seriously damage our democracy, as we have already just discussed. The Government are taking a range of actions to tackle this problem, including a consultation on a new electoral offence of intimidating candidates and campaigners.

Photo of Nicky Morgan Nicky Morgan Chair, Treasury Committee

I thank the Minister very much for that reply. She may have seen the “Exposure” programme broadcast last week, which captured the abuse and threats of death that I have faced, that my hon. Friend Antoinette Sandbach has faced, and that my former right hon. Friend—still a friend—Anna Soubry, has faced. There was also an excellent response from the Speaker to a point of order that I raised on the matter. Does the Minister agree that the systematic intimidation of MPs in this place on the way they vote should be a real concern to anybody interested in our democracy?

Photo of Chloe Smith Chloe Smith The Parliamentary Secretary, Cabinet Office, Assistant Whip

Yes, I do agree. The Government have therefore been working closely with the parliamentary security team, the police, administrators and others, because tackling this issue requires action from everyone. It also goes wider than just Members of Parliament. For example, we are helping candidates at the local elections this year to be safer with their home addresses.

Several hon. Members:

rose—

Photo of Tom Brake Tom Brake Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (International Trade), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Exiting the European Union)

Will the Minister commit to conducting a Mueller-style public inquiry into the alleged electoral fraud that has been committed in electronic campaigning by, for example, the leave campaign and potentially Arron Banks, who is being investigated by the National Crime Agency?

Photo of Chloe Smith Chloe Smith The Parliamentary Secretary, Cabinet Office, Assistant Whip

The right hon. Gentleman should know that the Government cannot have such an inquiry because the agencies investigating are independent, and rightly so. I can reassure the House that we have seen no evidence of successful interference in UK democratic processes, and that is as we would wish it to be.