LONDON (Reuters) - A senior British lawmaker said on Monday that Prime Minister David Cameron should appear before a parliamentary committee to answer questions about the European Union ahead of a June 23 referendum on whether Britain should remain in the bloc.
Cameron is campaigning for Britain to stay in, but his Conservative Party is split on the issue, with several cabinet ministers having defected to the "out" camp, and opinion polls suggest the result could be very tight.
Andrew Tyrie, chairman of parliament's Liaison Committee, said in a statement he was "surprised and disappointed" that Cameron had refused to appear before June 23.
"The public is eager to get beyond the slogans and exaggerated claims that have so far characterized too much of the referendum debate," said Tyrie, who also released a letter he had sent to Cameron asking him to reconsider.
Cameron's Downing Street office said it had received Tyrie's letter and would respond in due course. Tyrie published a letter from Cameron, dated March 21, in which he cited "heavy diary pressures" as the reason for not appearing.
A question-and-answer session about the EU with Tyrie's committee could prove challenging for any politician.
Tyrie, a Conservative, has not said whether he is in favor of staying in or leaving the EU, but appears keen to debunk some of the wilder claims that have been made by both sides, regardless of party allegiance.
On March 23, he subjected Conservative London Mayor Boris Johnson, figurehead of the "out" camp, to a detailed grilling about his assertions that the EU had banned the recycling of teabags and prohibited children under eight from blowing up balloons.
Tyrie accused Johnson of "delivering us grains of truth with mountains of nonsense".
(Reporting by Estelle Shirbon; Editing by Ros Russell)