David Cameron has been accused of spending over £9m of taxpayers money on a pro-European Union leaflet in order to divert attention from questions about his tax affairs.
The government yesterday announced it would be delivering a booklet setting out the case for a 'Remain' vote in the June referendum to every household in the United Kingdom. The move has angered pro-Brexit campaigners.
Labour MP Graham Stringer told BBC Radio 4's Today programme he believed the massive postal drop, to start next week, was designed to "divert the attention from the prime minister's immediate problem about his income".
Cameron has been under intense pressure over his family’s tax arrangements following the Panama Papers data leak, which reportedly included details about his late father Ian’s tax affairs.
Conservative defence secretary Michael Fallon dismissed Stringer's claim out of hand.
"How could it be a diversion?" he told Today. "This is a leaflet that’s been weeks in preparation and I really think it’s well beneath Graham Stringer to try and suggest we’re doing this to try and divert from anything else."
Fallon told Today the government was fully entitled to campaign in favour of remaining in the EU.
"Let’s be clear about this, the government is not neutral in this particular battle, the Government takes the view that we would be better off, safer and stronger inside a reformed Europe and we’re entitled as the democratically elected government to set out our view as government have done in every referendum we’ve had, going all the way back to the original European referendum back in 1975," he said.
He said the leaflet was "rather restrained and moderate" and "does not make extravagant claims for staying in".
However Stringer said the claims made in the document were "argumentative" and "partial" as well as containing information that "are not facts".
Boris Johnson said the leaflets were a "complete waste of money" and "crazy".
Nigel Farage has also attacked the leaflets. "This government scam confirms my view that the EU referendum is defined by the battle of the people against the political elite," he said.
"They are going to spend £10m of taxpayers money on a pro-EU leaflet and website which are full of lies. Wasting millions of pounds of taxpayers money to tell us what to think is outrageous."
In the last referendum on Europe in 1975, the Government-produced leaflet backing Britain’s membership of the bloc was seen as decisive.
Shirley Williams, a Cabinet minister in the Labour government at the time, told Huffington Post UK last year: “That Government leaflet had a huge impact on people who are normally non-voters.”