The government should never waste money on the sort of patronising propaganda that will be landing on our doormats. Taxpayers across the country have different views on the EU, so it is abhorrent for the government to be using our money to tell us what to think and how to vote. The £9.3m being spent promoting the government’s position dwarfs the £7m that both lead campaigns can spend during the regulated campaigning period, making it harder to see the referendum as a fair fight. And since the country is still dealing with such a huge deficit, it’s odd that the government was able to find the cash to fund this exercise. There are better ways this money could have been spent – or it could have been left in taxpayers’ pockets. The debate about our relationship with the EU is an important one, but it should be for campaigners on both sides to make their respective cases, without the Whitehall machine abusing our cash to skew it.
Sir Nicholas Soames, Conservative MP for Mid Sussex, says No.
The democratically-elected government of this country has an absolute right and duty to communicate its policies with the voters to whom it is accountable. It is declared government policy, backed by a majority of the cabinet and of Conservative MPs, for Britain to remain in a reformed EU. This is why governments have used public money to communicate their views to the electorate before in other referendums, including the Scottish independence vote. When voters in my constituency speak to me about Europe, they overwhelmingly wish to have more information. This thirst for knowledge about the EU is backed up by polling showing 85 per cent of voters want more facts from the government. As such, for the government to send out this leaflet is not just permissible; it is the right thing to do. While £9.3m may seem like a large sum, I do not believe anyone should seek to put a price on the health of British democracy, particularly on such a huge issue.