Theresa May grilled over government links to Cambridge Analytica

Firm at the heart of Facebook data harvesting revelations has alleged links to Conservative Party

PRIME MINISTER Theresa May has come under pressure to reveal any links between the UK Government and Cambridge Analytica, after reports reveal a number of key connections between the elections consultancy and the Conservative Party.

Cambridge Analytica is under investigation in the UK and USA following allegations uncovered by The Observer that it had harvested the Facebook data of millions of voters during the US election, raising concerns over how the methods may have been used elsewhere. 

A Channel 4 undercover investigation revealed company representatives admitting to using bribes and disinformation to influence elections.

"The links to the Conservative Party go on and on - will the prime minister tell us of her government's connections to the company?" SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford

Speaking at Prime Minister’s Questions in the House of Commons on Wednesday, SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford questioned Theresa May on a number of apparent links between the company and the Conservative Party.

He said: "Can I point out that the parent company of Cambridge Analytica, Strategic Communications Laboratories [SCL Group], has been run by a chairman of Oxford Conservative Association.

“Its founding chairman was a former Conservative MP. A former Conservative party treasurer is a shareholder. We know that the links to the Conservative Party go on and on - will the Prime Minister tell us of her government's connections to the company?"

It has been reported that one of the founding directors of SCL Group, the parent organisation of Cambridge Analytica, was Roger Gabb, who remains on the board and donated over £500,000 to the Conservative Party in 2006.

Julian Wheatland, a former chair of SCL Group campaigned alongside David Cameron in the 2015 General Election and is also reported to be the chairman of the Oxford Conservative Association. The organisation has also reportedly received funding from Jonathan Marland, a former treasurer for the Conservative Party.

"As far as I'm aware, the government has no current contracts with Cambridge Analytica." Prime minister Theresa May

May did not respond to the specific examples listed by Black, but said that the allegations against Cambridge Analytica were “very concerning”.

She said: "The right honourable gentleman has been talking about two companies. The parent company, SCL, and Cambridge Analytica. I can say to him that as far as I'm aware, the government has no current contracts with Cambridge Analytica or with the SCL group.

May continued: "The allegations against Cambridge Analytica are clearly very concerning and it is absolutely right that they should be properly investigated.

"It's right that the Information Commissioner is doing exactly that because people need to have confidence in how their personal data is being used.”

Commenting after the exchange, Blackford said he found the prime minister’s use of the word “current” to be “telling”.

He added: “We know about the Tory party connections – now the prime minister must be honest about the UK Government’s connections to Cambridge Analytica - past and present.

"It has been reported that SCL has received hundreds of thousands of pounds from the UK Government." SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford

“We know there have been UK Government contracts with SCL. It has been reported that SCL has received hundreds of thousands of pounds from the UK government to carry out behaviour analysis in conflict zones.

"The prime minister must disclose any other UK Government contracts."

Both Roger Gabb and Alexander Nix, chief executive of Cambridge Analytica and a founder of SCL Group himself, signed a letter to The Daily Telegraph newspaper in 2016 supporting Brexit.

Concerns over links between the Brexit campaign and the company have also been raised in light of the fact that Leave Campaign co-founder Aaron Banks stated on Twitter earlier this month in response to being questioned on linked with Cambridge Analytica by stating: “We have made no secret of working with Cambridge. We created a huge SM machine that took the message to voters.”

However, Cambridge Analytica has insisted that it had no involvement in the Leave campaign.

The company denies any wrongdoing, but chief executive Alexander Nix has been suspended pending investigations.

Picture courtesy of Parliament TV

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