Europe minister David Lidington has set out the government’s compromise on ‘purdah’ ahead of tonight’s vote – only to have his spin shredded by parliament’s top lawyer. In a damning email leaked to Guido, Speaker’s Counsel Michael Carpenter says Lidington’s arguments against letting the purdah rules apply in full are “unsound“.
One of Lidington’s main arguments against purdah is that “the legal advice we have received suggests that this could extend to individual elected representatives” – i.e. it would gag all MPs in the run up to the referendum. Carpenter dismisses this as “too literal a reading“. MPs would not face restrictions.
Another of Lidington’s key claims is that purdah would stop ministers from conducting European Union business. Carpenter says “I do not share the view“. Lidington suggests that the “full rigour” of purdah would prevent ministers communicating what is going on in Brussels. But Carpenter says the rules “expressly allow the issue of press notices without any restriction as to their content“.
He concludes of the Europe minister: “Mr Lidington seems simply to repeat the unsound arguments advanced before“. That’s two of the government’s main arguments on purdah torn apart by parliament’s top laywer ahead of tonight’s crunch vote…