Damian Collins: emergency legislation needed for a snap general election

Calls for reform to rules on election campaigning have been made following the Facebook–Cambridge Analytica data scandal in 2018.

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Conservative MP Damian Collins has expressed concern about whether electoral rules have been sufficiently strengthened in time for a snap general election later this year.

In an interview with Cherwell, Collins, who chairs the parliamentary Digital, Culture, Media and Sport select committee, was asked whether current electoral rules would prevent a repeat of the 2016 scandal surrounding Cambridge Analytica’s use of Facebook data. He said: “No: if a snap election were called, we would need emergency legislation to amend our electoral law to create rules on social media campaigning that are fit for purpose.”

 “In addition, current rules and limits around political donations can currently be easily evaded through making online donations from multiple countries using different currencies – we urgently need new electoral rules to change this.”

However, Mr Collins did not go so far as to oppose the idea of holding a snap general election later in the year: “An election would only take place if parliament cannot sustain itself. If this happens, then a general election must take place.”

The Conservative MP had previously written to co-founder of Facebook Mark Zuckerberg, requesting that he travel to Westminster personally to answer questions from MPs. So far, Mr Zuckerberg has not accepted this request.

“Mark Zuckerberg is ultimately responsible for what is going on inside Facebook,” Collins told Cherwell.

“Those who have been sent to the committee as representatives of Facebook have been unable to answer many of our questions, which is why we need Zuckerberg himself to come to Parliament to answer them.”

Mr Collins expressed support for the Prime Minister’s decision to prorogue parliament. “What the Prime Minister is seeking to do is force parliament to make a decision,” he said.

“The time for open ended debate has come to an end. We need to make a decision about what to do, not just spend more time talking about it.”

Calls for reform to rules on election campaigning have been made following the Facebook–Cambridge Analytica data scandal in 2018.