Election Campaign Finances: Regulation — [Ian Paisley in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 4:26 pm on 8th July 2021.

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Photo of Damian Collins Damian Collins Conservative, Folkestone and Hythe 4:26 pm, 8th July 2021

I thank the Minister for her response. I agree that it is good that the Elections Bill has been published: as she said, there has been a very lengthy period of consultation of many of the aspects of that Bill, so it is good to see it published. I am sure that Members will have the opportunity to consider the report of the Committee on Standards in Public Life alongside the Bill as it goes through its stages in both Houses of Parliament.

I thank the Members who have taken part in the debate: the hon. Members for Airdrie and Shotts (Anum Qaisar-Javed), for Aberavon (Stephen Kinnock), for Edinburgh North and Leith (Deidre Brock), and for Putney (Fleur Anderson). I think it says something about the Putney constituency that someone tried to claim they had won a Nobel prize to impress its voters in an election—high standards are expected by the electorate there! I also say to the hon. Member for Aberavon that we seemed to struggle in the debate with different variations on the pronunciation of “Aberavon”, which I think is a consequence of “Grandstand” no longer broadcasting the Welsh rugby results live on Saturdays. Every other week, Aberavon would be the first name out of the hat.

We have had a very good debate on a very important set of issues. The Minister is right to say that the principles that underpin our system are well known, and they are based on transparency and fairness. The important challenge we face now is to make sure that those principles can be translated into the digital world, which is a harder challenge than we have faced before, because in the system as we knew it before digital campaigning many safety brakes were built into the system.

Editors of newspapers are liable for the adverts that they publish; in some cases, the printers of leaflets have a liability for the leaflets that they publish; and so on. There is not the same level of transparency in the way that digital systems work, which is why the law requires reform and change. I am grateful for the debate we have had, and for the opportunity to discuss some of those points this afternoon.