Over the past few months, Ministers have been utterly complacent about their policy on all-postal ballots and they have derided us whenever we expressed well-founded concerns about the scope that exists for malpractice. My hon. Friends have been proved right: elections through the ballot box are trusted; elections through the post box are not. The Electoral Commission has totally disowned the all-postal ballot that the Government are foisting on the north-east in its regional referendum, and it is deeply perverse of the Government to insist on proceeding under a system that is both loathed and discredited.
If the Minister is to act as the guardian of our electoral system and protect the integrity of our democratic processes, will he now confirm, as my hon. Friends have already asked him to do, that the north-east referendum will be either conducted under the tried and trusted system of ballot boxes at polling stations or, failing that, abandoned altogether?