Andrew Tyrie urges Prime Minister to provide evidence on Europe

12 April 2016

Andrew Tyrie MP, Chair of the Liaison Committee, the Committee of Select Committee Chairs, has written to the Prime Minister, Rt Hon. David Cameron MP, urging him to provide oral evidence to the Liaison Committee on the forthcoming EU referendum.

Chair's comments

Commenting on the correspondence, Mr Tyrie said:

"I am surprised and disappointed that the Prime Minister is currently refusing to appear before the Liaison Committee – the Committee of Committee Chairs – to answer questions on the EU referendum. This is all the more disappointing given that the Prime Minister recently launched a 14-page Government document – to be sent to 27 million households – setting out his, and his Government's, case for remaining in the EU.

The decision to call the referendum was his. He led the renegotiations. So it is his views and explanations that matter most, and are most worthy of careful scrutiny.

The public is eager to get beyond the slogans and exaggerated claims that have so far characterised too much of the referendum debate. The Prime Minister argues that he has answered a lot of questions in the Chamber of the House of Commons. Important as that is, it is no substitute for the more conversational exchanges – with the opportunity to develop detailed arguments – that only a select committee can provide.

There is still time for the Prime Minister to reconsider."

Prime Minister before the Liaison Committee

The House of Commons Liaison Committee is comprised of the Chairs of the 32 select committees.

The Committee takes evidence from the Prime Minister on matters of public policy, usually three times a year. The Prime Minister appeared 13 times in the last Parliament, and twice in his first 12 months as Prime Minister.

The Prime Minister has appeared before the Liaison Committee only once so far in the first 11 months of this Parliament, on 12 January 2016.

By refusing to appear before July (as his correspondence makes clear), the Prime Minister will have reduced his appearances in this first parliamentary session (or year) of this Parliament from three to one.

On 12 January 2016, the Prime Minister restated his commitment to attend three hearings in each Session:

Q1 Chair: Good afternoon, Prime Minister. Thank you very much for coming to give evidence to the first of the Liaison Committee's public meetings in this Session. First of all, I want to establish that you are going to continue the practice of the last Parliament and appear three times a Session.

Mr Cameron: Yes, if we all agree. I thought last time it worked quite well to have three sessions: one in this bit, one between Easter and summer, and one later in the year. This idea of picking some subjects, to be determined by you, rather than going across the piece—I am happy either way, but I think it worked okay.

Q2 Chair: We have a problem for this Session, because we have a bit of a backlog. We tried to get you before Christmas but that was not possible, so we would be very grateful if you could make two more appearances this Session.

Mr Cameron: Yes, that sounds right—one between Easter and summer recess, and one—

Q3 Chair: I think it will be two before the summer.

Mr Cameron: I hadn't banked on that. I think that might be more difficult.

Q4 Chair: Would you like to have a word with your bank?

Mr Cameron: Let me take that away and think about it

Prime Ministerial evidence on Europe

It has been the Liaison Committee's intention, from early in this Parliament, to hold a session with the Prime Minister on Europe. This has been communicated to the Prime Minister, informally and formally, on many occasions. Following the first evidence session with the PM in January, informal conversations took place to persuade him to give evidence on the UK's membership of the EU before the referendum.

On 22 February 2016, Mr Tyrie wrote formally to the Prime Minister, to express the Committee's intention, in writing, to take evidence from him about the outcome of the Government's renegotiation of EU membership.

On 9 March 2016, staff at No.10 notified the Committee in writing that the Prime Minister would not be appearing before the referendum.

On 17 March 2016, Mr Tyrie wrote again to the PM requesting that he give evidence before the referendum. Mr Tyrie said that his refusal was 'as surprising as it was disappointing', and called on the PM to reconsider.

The Prime Minister responded on 21 March 2016, again refusing to give evidence before July.

Mr Tyrie wrote again, on 8 April 2016, to ask the Prime Minister to reconsider.

In a speech at Vauxhall, Ellesmere Port on 10 March 2016, setting out the economic arguments why the UK should remain in the European Union, the Prime Minister said:

"I know that as people make up their minds, what they want – more than anything – are the facts and arguments."

It was reported by the BBC, on 10 March 2016, that the Prime Minister is also reported to have said that people want the facts and arguments about the EU presented in a "calm and rational way".

Further information

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