The government must not use taxpayers’ money to skew EU referendum result

As the EU referendum Bill reaches its Committee Stage in the Commons, high among the issues set to be debated is whether there should be a period of 'purdah' leading up to the poll.

This is a period during which central and local government would be prevented by law from acting in a way  and - crucially - spending taxpayers' money so as to influence the result of the referendum.

It goes without saying that we at the TaxPayers' Alliance believe it is imperative that a period of purdah is imposed so that the referendum is held in a free and fair fashion.

The whole point of referendums is that the government of the day cedes its power over an issue to the voting public; ministers are deferring to the electorate, so it would be wrong if the government machine were to use taxpayers' money to skew the outcome one way or the other. If the government is saying 'we trust the British people to make the decision', it should not be unduly and corporately trying to dictate what that decision is.

Of course on a personal level ministers should be free to be involved in campaigning for their favoured side in the referendum, but it should be for the respective Yes and No campaigns to make their cases with the funds they have raised for the purpose. Taxpayers' money must not in any way be diverted to support one side over another.

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