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EU Membership (Costs and Benefits)

Volume 597: debated on Thursday 18 June 2015

3. If the Electoral Commission will commission a lay-person’s guide to the costs and benefits of UK membership of the EU before the EU referendum. (900397)

The Electoral Commission is currently considering what public information it will provide to voters on how to register and cast their vote at an EU referendum. However, given that it is also responsible for designating lead campaigners as well as registering and regulating other campaigners, the Commission does not believe that it would be appropriate for it also to produce a guide providing information about the costs and benefits of EU membership first hand as campaigners would want to make such a case themselves.

Does my hon. Friend agree that the British public have a right to a completely objective guide to our membership in order to take an informed decision in the in/out EU referendum?

I certainly agree with my hon. Friend, and that is what many of our constituents want. The issue is: who is best placed to provide that impartial guide? Given the complexity of the question—there are so many unknowns—and the importance of ensuring that the Electoral Commission does not in any way undermine its neutrality and independence, it may not be the right organisation to carry out that task.

If they are not the people to do it, I am quite happy to take on that task. It would be pointless having such a document because it will have pages and pages and pages of costs; I doubt that we would find a page on the benefits.

I will certainly put that offer back to the Electoral Commission. I am sure that it will be as enthusiastic as I am.