Electoral chiefs warn MPs they are powerless against foreign interventions in British elections

In a Commons hearing on fake news, Electoral Commission boss Claire Bassett said: “We have no powers to intervene or stop someone acting if they are outside the UK.” She added the £20,000 maximum fine was viewed by campaigners as the “cost of doing business”. She said: “It’s something we’d like to see increased.”

But she said: “If those people seeking to interfere in our elections are based abroad and acting abroad, that is beyond the remit that we have as a UK-based regulator and something that is a real challenge for us all.

“We have no powers to either intervene or to stop someone acting if they are outside of the UK.”

MPs were told the watchdog wanted to be able to impose tougher fines.

MPs slammed tech boss Mark Zuckerberg for pointblank refusing to appear before Parliament and providing “disappointing” written evidence.

Commons Culture chair Damian Collins said Facebook failed to provide “a sufficient level of detail and transparency” in its response following an appearance by chief technology officer Mike Schroepfer.

It follows an announcement by regulators they will pursue their investigation into scandal-hit Cambridge Analytica and what happened to Facebook users’ data despite the firm announcing its collapse.

Bob Posner, the Electoral Commission’s director of political finance and regulation, said it wanted enhanced powers to seize documents.

Last week Brexit campaign group Leave.EU, co-founded by former Ukip backer Arron Banks, was fined a record-equalling £70,000 last week and its chief executive Liz Bilney was referred to police over its EU referendum spending.

Mr Banks has said he will see electoral chiefs “in court”.

 

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