EU Referendum

Petition to stop pro-EU leaflets to be debated by MPs on 9 May

EU leaflet Image copyright PA
Image caption The leaflets have sparked a row between between the government and leave campaigners

A petition against the government's controversial £9m EU leaflet campaign to promote EU membership is to be debated by MPs on 9 May.

The e-petition, which has more than 200,000 signatures, was set up in protest at the leaflets being sent to every UK home ahead of the referendum.

Leave campaigners have accused the government of misusing public money and trying to swing the vote's outcome.

The government says it is "not neutral" and has a duty to provide the "facts".

The in-out referendum on whether to stay in or leave the EU takes place on 23 June, with the government in favour of a vote to remain.

Its pro-EU leaflets began hitting doormats in England this week, and will be sent to homes across Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland after the 5 May elections.

The UK's EU vote: All you need to know

EU for beginners: A guide

UK and the EU: Better off out or in?

Reality Check: The government's EU leaflet

The petition, launched by the Get Britain Out group on the government's e-Petitions site and entitled "Stop Cameron spending British taxpayers' money on pro-EU referendum leaflets", has more than 212,000 backers.

The leaflets, which bear the official HM government stamp, claim that a vote to leave the EU would cause an economic shock that "would risk higher prices of some household goods and damage living standards".

It further claims that the only way to "protect jobs, provide security, and strengthen the UK's economy" is by staying in the EU, arguing that leaving would create risk and uncertainty.

'More even'

But campaigners for Britain to leave the EU - including many Conservative MPs - dismissed it as "one-sided propaganda" and complained it had been paid for using taxpayers' money.

They also say it is unfair the leaflets cost more than the £7m each side will be allowed to spend by law, once the official campaign period begins.

Labour said party leader Jeremy Corbyn believed the government should have provided a "more even" assessment of the facts about Britain's EU membership in the leaflet, in order to enable voters to weigh up the arguments on either side and make an informed choice.

But David Cameron has defended the move as "necessary and right", saying the government had a duty to explain to the British public why it thinks the UK should stay in the EU.

The government says the leaflets - costing £9.3m, or about 34p per household - are a response to public demand for more information.

A digital version is being advertised on social media and is available on a new website.

The government's response to the petition states that the EU Referendum Act 2015 "commits the government to provide information to the public on EU membership ahead of the vote, and that is what we will do".

Not every petition which passes the 100,000 threshold gets debated in Parliament, but all must be considered by the Petitions Committee, whose job it is to decide whether to grant a debate.

The petition debate will take place in Westminster Hall at 16:30 BST on 9 May, and will be led by Conservative MP Paul Scully.

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