UK Membership of EU

Foreign and Commonwealth Office written question – answered on 27th April 2016.

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Photo of Baroness Bakewell Baroness Bakewell Labour

To ask Her Majesty’s Government which institutions and postholders are prohibited by law from expressing views on the EU referendum and the UK membership of the EU.

Photo of Baroness Anelay of St Johns Baroness Anelay of St Johns Minister of State

For the final 28 days ending with the date of the poll, section 125 of the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000 (as applied by the European Union Referendum Act 2015) restricts publication of material giving general information about the referendum, dealing with any issues raised by the question, encouraging voting or putting an argument for or against either answer. The restriction applies to material published by or on behalf of “any Minister of the Crown, government department or local authority”, “the Government of Gibraltar, or any Gibraltar government department” or “any other person or body whose expenses are defrayed wholly or mainly out of public funds or by any local authority.” Specific exception is made for the Electoral Commission, the BBC, Sianel Pedwar Cymru and the Gibraltar Broadcasting Corporation. Section 125 also sets out a number of general exceptions to the restriction, such as the issuing of press notices, and making material available to people in response to specific requests.

Under charity law, charities can undertake campaigning, including campaigning at the EU referendum, and political activity where it is in support of their charitable purposes, and where the trustees consider it is in the interests of the charity. When doing so, charities must not engage in any party political activity, and must take care to protect the charity's independence and reputation.

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