DEMOCRACY – REFERENDA – 16 February 2000
Dr Julian Lewis: Let us suppose the Government were to issue a substantial publication and call it a press notice. As it had been issued as a press notice, what would stop the Government supplying a copy to anybody who wanted one or supplying many copies to organisations that wished to distribute them to others?
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Dr Lewis: I thank the Minister for his courtesy in giving way yet again. Will he refer to the point about press notices? When he says that the Government can put out no material during the 28-day period, what is there to stop them putting out material that would normally be caught by the prohibition, but getting round it by putting the words "press notice" at the top of it?
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Dr Lewis: The only snag is that a provision in the Education Acts prohibits the indoctrination of children in schools with partisan politics on politically controversial issues. If such literature is being sent to schools, it is breaking the existing law.
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Dr Lewis: I assure the Minister that he has not seen me even begin to get excited. Does he expect us to think that he is naive enough to believe that the European Commission would directly stand up and dish out the currency, whichever particular brand it was using, and intervene in the campaign openly? Of course it would not. It would operate by channelling funds through all sorts of intermediate institutions and pressure groups. Bodies would spring up like mushrooms, apparently independent but covertly funded by our money to defeat the interest of our people.
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Dr Lewis: I am glad that the Minister has given way at this point. What is the point of placing a cap on what the parties on either side of a referendum campaign can spend if the institutions of an international organisation such as the European Union do not face such a limitation?