FOREIGN AFFAIRS – GOVERNMENT REFERENDUM LEAFLET – 11 April 2016
Dr Julian Lewis: The hon. Member for Foyle (Mark Durkan), who represents the SDLP, is not alone in taking a principled stand of being in favour of remain, but against the spending of public money on this leaflet. The leader of the Green party in England and Wales, Natalie Bennett, said on Radio 4 on Friday evening that
“it isn’t acceptable for the Government to be putting out propaganda in this way.”
Can the Minister tell us which of the two lines he has been putting forward today he really subscribes to? Does he really subscribe to the line that this is information that the public want, or does he commit himself to the line that this is actually the Government arguing for one side of the debate because that is what the Government’s position is? He cannot have it both ways. Either it is an impartial, factual document or it is a partisan argument for one side in the debate. Which is it?
[The Minister for Europe (Mr David Lidington): It will be for the two designated campaign organisations to promote their own messages to the public as they choose, without the Government interfering. What the opinion research we commissioned told us was that people wanted more information, and that included a clearer explanation from the Government as to why we were arguing the case and making the recommendation that we were. What we are doing in this leaflet is providing that factual information in an accessible form, but also showing why the Government have made the recommendation they have.]