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Valedictory Debate

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 5:24 pm on 5th November 2019.

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Photo of Ian Lucas Ian Lucas Labour, Wrexham 5:24 pm, 5th November 2019

It is a pleasure to follow Mr Simpson; I will miss him at breakfast time.

My late father’s birthday was on 5 November. My father, Colin Lucas, and my mother, Alice Lucas, were profound influences on me and they taught me some very basic values. They taught me to tell the truth, to respect the law and always to listen to other people. I do that, and that has guided me in my parliamentary career.

I want to talk about the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee, of which I have been a member since 2015. Since 2017, it has shown Parliament at its best. It has worked across parties to produce work that I believe is world-leading. Twitter announced last week that it is stopping paid political advertising. I believe that that process was commenced by the DCMS Committee and its report on disinformation last year.

I am afraid that I am now going to change the tone of the debate, because I want to place on the record some information that I have concerning disinformation and the Government of the day. Sitting opposite me in this debate, I have seen many wonderful Conservative MPs for whom I have huge respect, people I have learned to respect since I came here in 2001. When I came to Parliament, I did not understand how Parliament worked so well on a cross-party basis. I know that now, and there are many, many noble, good and very skilled Conservative MPs. Unfortunately, they are not running the Government at this very serious time.

I want to draw the House’s attention to the serious position that exists on the cusp of a general election, because we have laws in place that are completely inadequate to deal with that general election. I want to quote the words of Dominic Cummings in correspondence that he sent to the Electoral Commission. He said:

“Overall it is clear that the entire regulatory structure around national elections including data is really bad. There are so many contradictions, gaps, logical lacunae that it is wide open to abuse…There has been no proper audit by anybody of how the rules could be exploited by an internal or foreign force to swing close elections. These problems were not fixed for the 2017 election, and I doubt they will be imminently. The system cannot cope with the fast-changing technology.”

The main adviser to the Prime Minister is telling us that the current legal structure for elections is unsound. We are going into a general election that is going to be fought online and we are already seeing the way in which that is affecting the campaign.