Prorogation (Disclosure of Communications)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 6:53 pm on 9th September 2019.

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Photo of Ian Lucas Ian Lucas Labour, Wrexham 6:53 pm, 9th September 2019

This motion is about trust. We should understand the people we are dealing with.

As recently as July 2019, the Electoral Commission published detailed evidence upon which it based its finding that Vote Leave committed electoral offences in the immediate lead-up to the 2016 referendum. In March 2019, Vote Leave itself admitted to breaking the electoral law. Electoral law is there to safeguard democracy. Vote Leave’s offences are set out in detail in the July 2019 Electoral Commission findings, which explain that Vote Leave conspired, quite deliberately, to break the referendum spending limits by channelling money to the Canadian company AggregateIQ through an alternative funding stream. Dominic Cummings, working for Vote Leave at the time, explained in evidence disclosed by the Electoral Commission that

“there is another organisation that could spend your money. Would you be willing to spend the 100k to some social media ninjas who could usefully spend it…in the final crucial 5 days. Obviously it would be entirely legal.”

As we now know from the Electoral Commission—and accepted by Vote Leave—it was entirely illegal. Dominic Cummings said that this spending was “crucial.”

The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster knew of these payments. In an interview with Dermot Murnaghan of Sky News, he said that he knew of these illegal payments, but not until after the referendum had taken place. On 5 August this year, following his appointment as the Minister responsible for electoral reform, I wrote to him asking when he knew of the illegal payments, which I believe to be a matter of crucial public interest. He has not replied.

Dominic Cummings has refused to give evidence to the Select Committee on Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, frustrating its inquiry, and has been found to be in contempt of Parliament. When he was appointed as the Prime Minister’s adviser, I wrote to the Prime Minister, asking him to instruct Dominic Cummings to give evidence to the Committee. The Prime Minister has refused to do this. These are the people who are making these decisions, and we cannot trust them to make the right ones. I therefore support the motion.