George Eustice is MP for Camborne, Redruth and Hayle.
I am no fan of the ECHR and would abolish the Human Rights Act, so I think it is right that decisions about where to allow political advertising in Britain should be a matter for our own national Parliament. However, those of us who no longer want to contract out decisions affecting people's rights to foreign courts must ensure that our own Parliament engages fully in such debates. The case brought by Animal Defenders International has highlighted the woeful inadequacy of our current laws on broadcast political advertising.
Britain has some of the most draconian restrictions on political advertising in the free world. It is not just the U.S which is usually cited. Most other European countries allow some political advertising with the new democracies in central and eastern Europe generally being the most liberal. Commonwealth countries such as Australia with the same political constitution as us also allow political advertising subject to certain limits. In stark contrast, in Britain it is ok to advertise toys to young children at 6.30 am while their parents are still in bed - but advertising political ideas to grown adults is considered beyond the pale. It’s time for change.
The Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000 and the Communications Act 2003 that followed represented an opportunity to revisit the approach we take to broadcast advertising but it was an opportunity squandered. Once we had introduced strict limits on party spending, introduced longer terms for election periods and banned foreign donations altogether then the arguments against political advertising became largely redundant. The current position in the UK is something of an anomaly. The original principle predates the internet to start with which will drive future change. We have also always allowed political advertising in cinemas. Ten years ago, the no campaign against the euro spent over £1 million on a powerful advert seen by some 5 million cinema goers.