It was reported today that the Government is to spend almost £10 million circulating a leaflet to every household regarding the EU referendum claiming 85% of the public had said they wanted more information.
The Government defended the spending by pointing to independent polling indicating 85 per cent of voters wanted more information to help them make a decision. That may be the case but this could have been provided without advising people that the Government believes voting to remain in the European Union is the best decision for the UK.
Backers of the Brexit-backing campaigns expressed outrage at the move to flood the country with pro-EU ‘propaganda’ just weeks before the June 23 poll.
Environmental Secretary, Liz Truss, defending the government’s position, said, ‘This referendum will be a huge decision for our country, perhaps the biggest we will make in our lifetimes and it is crucial that the public have clear and accessible information.
‘Independent polling carried out on behalf of the Government made clear that 85% of people want more information from the Government to help make an informed decision.
‘The document makes clear why EU membership brings economic security, peace and stability.
‘It also sets out that if the UK voted to leave, the resulting economic shock would put pressure on the value of the pound, which would risk higher prices of some household goods.’
Tory MP Steve Baker, a leading member of the Vote Leave campaign said, ‘The Government is about to spend more taxpayers’ money propagandising for the pro-EU Britain Stronger in Europe campaign than Vote Leave will be allowed to spend from voluntary donations during the formal period.
Peter Bone, a co-founder of the Grassroots Out campaign, said: ‘This is an outrageous way to spend hard-working taxpayers money. ‘Many recent polls have shown that the majority of the UK public is actually in favour of leaving the EU so to spend their money on a pro-EU propaganda exercise is an inexcusable waste.
Both official campaigns will get to send their own taxpayer-funded leaflet to every household ahead of the poll.
The Electoral Commission will also send a leaflet featuring one page each from both official campaigns.
The 16-page leaflet – half of which is covered in pictures – leaves no room for doubt about the Government’s view that EU membership is good for Britain. Its front cover reads ‘Why the Government believes that voting to remain in the European Union is the best decision for the UK’.
It beggars belief that the Government decided to put this important EU referendum question to the people and then proceed to spend almost £10 million of taxpayers money to influence how they vote.
Some media outlets have said this story was released today to take the heat off David Cameron and George Osborne who are being pressed by the media to explain their personal finances in the light of the ‘Panama Papers’ leakage.