Electoral Integrity Consultation

Oral Answers to Questions — Cabinet Office – in the House of Commons on 5th June 2019.

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Photo of Ruth Cadbury Ruth Cadbury Labour, Brentford and Isleworth

When he plans to launch the consultation on electoral integrity announced on 5 May 2019.

Photo of Alex Cunningham Alex Cunningham Labour, Stockton North

When he plans to launch the consultation on electoral integrity announced on 5 May 2019.

Photo of Kevin Foster Kevin Foster Assistant Whip, The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales, The Parliamentary Secretary, Cabinet Office

The Government recently announced measures to strengthen and protect our democratic processes, including a consultation on electoral integrity. Before we launch the consultation, we will hold discussions with interested groups and explore the scope for cross-party co-operation. It will be published in due course.

Photo of Ruth Cadbury Ruth Cadbury Labour, Brentford and Isleworth

Earlier this year, my constituents were bombarded with Facebook adverts telling them that I was stealing Brexit and ignoring their votes. It has been reported that behind those adverts was hundreds of thousands of pounds of dark money. Does the Minister agree that it is vital that voters know who is funding political adverts on social media?

Photo of Kevin Foster Kevin Foster Assistant Whip, The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales, The Parliamentary Secretary, Cabinet Office

Part of our announcement was that we will bring in a requirement for digital imprints where candidates or campaigners are involved, and some social media platforms have already implemented that. We are also looking, as part of a wider consultation, at how to have modern and up-to-date electoral rules, but it is about ensuring that we do it well rather than quickly.

Photo of Alex Cunningham Alex Cunningham Labour, Stockton North

The problem is much more widespread. The Guardian reported that American donors have given $5.6 million to US funding bodies, which passed it to, among others, the Institute of Economic Affairs, the Adam Smith Institute and Policy Exchange. Will the consultation look specifically at how think-tanks are funded and by whom, or is the Minister worried that that is a little bit too close to home?

Photo of Kevin Foster Kevin Foster Assistant Whip, The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales, The Parliamentary Secretary, Cabinet Office

We are clear that the consultation needs to look at a wide range of issues, including the potential for shell companies or organisations to be used to funnel money into media campaigns. As I said in my initial answer, we are keen to get this right and to secure cross-party co-operation, so that we can have a robust system in law, because we know that any loopholes left in a rushed piece of legislation would be exploited.

Photo of Ranil Jayawardena Ranil Jayawardena Conservative, North East Hampshire

Does my hon. Friend agree that part of having integrity in the system is ensuring that it is easy for people to understand? Electoral systems are critical to that, so will he bring forward plans to introduce first past the post in all English elections?

Photo of Kevin Foster Kevin Foster Assistant Whip, The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales, The Parliamentary Secretary, Cabinet Office

I thank my hon. Friend for his question. He is a great advocate of the first-past-the-post system, which has served this country well for many generations, producing stable government. Any changes to introduce first past the post in other elections would have to compete for legislative time with other priorities.

Photo of Chris Matheson Chris Matheson Shadow Minister (Cabinet Office)

Since we publicly raised concerns just over a year ago, the Conservative party has accepted more than £1 million from donors with links to Russia, including the wife of Vladimir Putin’s former deputy Finance Minister, who has donated £112,500 to the Conservative party in the past three months alone, making a total of up to £626,000. Will the review that the Minister is undertaking look at links between the Conservative party and the biggest kleptocrat of all, President Putin?

Photo of Kevin Foster Kevin Foster Assistant Whip, The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales, The Parliamentary Secretary, Cabinet Office

The person referred to is actually a British citizen, but I am not going to take lectures on the influence of Russia in British politics from the Opposition, whose leader wanted us to hand over evidence to Russia after the Salisbury attack—rather than believing our intelligence service, he would rather believe Mr Putin’s.