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Election Candidates: Protection

Cabinet Office – in the House of Commons on 22nd January 2020.

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Photo of Sally-Ann Hart Sally-Ann Hart Conservative, Hastings and Rye

What steps his Department is taking to (a) support and (b) protect people standing in elections.

Photo of Sir David Amess Sir David Amess Conservative, Southend West

What steps his Department is taking to (a) support and (b) protect people standing in elections.

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

Everyone should be able to participate in politics without fear. The increasing level of abuse directed at those in public life is a worrying trend, which stops talented people standing for public service and puts voters off politics. We in Government work across a range of Departments and other bodies to ensure a thorough response to incidents and deliver the best security advice and support. We are also committed to introducing a new electoral offence of intimidating a candidate or campaigner in the run-up to an election.

Photo of Sally-Ann Hart Sally-Ann Hart Conservative, Hastings and Rye

I thank the Minister for that response, and I welcome her back from maternity leave; it is a pleasure to see her back in her place. Does she agree that at times during the last election the commentary and actions of others were misleading, inaccurate and vicious, and that there should be no place for that in our politics, regardless of political persuasion? What steps does she think we should take to ensure that, as leaders in our communities across parties, we conduct our engagement together in an open, respectful and honest way?

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

I thank my hon. Friend for her kind words and welcome her to her place, along with all new Members. She is absolutely right to set the tone that we should aim to strike in the Chamber and in our work for our constituents. Robust political debate is fundamental, but threats and other forms of abuse are not acceptable. I extend to her the invitation that I have recently circulated to hon. Members, to talk to me about any aspect of the elections that they have recently experienced after this session at 1 o’clock, when I shall be delighted to hear more.

Photo of Sir David Amess Sir David Amess Conservative, Southend West

Now that we have a Government elected with a majority, can we please address the situation whereby people can post online abuse without having to have their names and addresses published?

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

First, I think that companies need to tackle such abusive behaviour and take responsibility for that on their services. That could include taking steps to limit the use or abuse of anonymity. The Government are also taking forward measures to put digital imprints on online political material. That will be a way to help voters to see who is saying what and hold them to account.

Photo of Mike Amesbury Mike Amesbury Shadow Minister (Work and Pensions) (Employment)

According to the international fact-checking agency, First Draft News, almost 90% of ads posted on Facebook by the Minister’s party in the first few days of December were misleading. Does she agree with the Information Commissioner