A J Beith (Berwick-upon-Tweed, Liberal Democrat): Why did not the Under-Secretary ensure that all the secondary legislation was correctly drafted and in place to give returning officers the full power to enforce the postal vote safeguards in the way that Parliament intended?
Bridget Prentice (Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Constitutional Affairs): The right hon. Gentleman is right. It is most unfortunate that we could not do what he suggested. We will ensure that the regulations are drafted correctly in future. It was unfortunate that we could not get that right for 3 May, but I hope that we shall ensure that everything is exactly as it should be in future.
Andrew Robathan (Blaby, Conservative): The Minister seems to be living in a slightly different world from the rest of us. Has she read Sir Alistair Graham's speech in January, in which he said:
"How does DCA or the Electoral Commission know about the extent of electoral fraud when neither of them have kept any statistics nor have undertaken any research on the issue? Is it that, in their obsession with increasing participation at all costs, they have turned a blind eye to the risks of electoral fraud and its consequences on the integrity of our democratic system?"
Oliver Heald (North East Hertfordshire, Conservative): The Minister will know that the Committee on Standards in Public Life warned that impersonation was the most common form of electoral fraud. The election commissioner in Birmingham warned that well-organised fraudsters were getting away with scores of personated votes. Given that, which Minister is responsible for the latest fiasco that the new laws to tackle impersonation will not be introduced for this year's major set of local elections, because they were so badly drafted? Is that not yet another sign of Government incompetence in the face of growing corruption and fraud?