The Prime Minister has come under fire today after it emerged that £9.3 million of taxpayers money had been spent on a 16 page leaflet setting out the government’s position on why the UK should remain in the European Union.
The leaflet titled “Why the Government believes that voting to remain in the European Union the best decision for the UK” will be sent to 27 million households from 12th April.
There is a precedent for this as a pamphlet was sent out by Harold Wilson during the 1975 referendum on the EEC.
The leaflet claims that the EU brings ‘economic security, peace and stability.’ It reiterates that claim, disputed by leave campaigners, that three million jobs depend on the UK membership.
The case from the Government
- The Prime Minister has stated that the leaflet forms part of the ‘long campaign’ and therefore he has kept his promise not to use government or conservative party funds during the election campaign.
- The PM during a trip to Exeter described it as “money well spent” and that it was absolutely not undemocratic
- Liz Truss, Environment Secretary said “it is crucial that the public have clear and accessible information.”
- According to the Government, Independent polling has shown that 85% of people want more information from the Government to make an informed decision.
The critics brand the booklet ‘hysterical’ and ‘propaganda’
- Leave campaigners have accused the government of mis-using public funds and some like Liam Fox MP have encouraged supporters to send the leaflet back to No.10 for recycling
- Labour MP Graham Stringer suggested the leaflet was being issued now as a distraction from speculation over Mr Cameron’s tax affairs
- They believe that it creates an imbalance between the official spending made by the ‘remain’ and ‘leave’ campaigns
- Boris Johnson MP claimed that if public funds were used it should be on a balanced piece
- Michael Gove, Justice Secretary and a supporter of Vote Leave said that it was wrong to spend taxpayers money on “a one-sided piece of propaganda” and should be used on public services
- A government e-petition criticising taxpayers money being used is gathering pace. The threshold of 100,000 signatures for it to be debated by parliamentarians looks likely to be reached and exceeded within a day.