The government intends to hold the referendums on elected regional assembles and associated local government changes by all-postal ballots, local government minister Nick Raynsford announced in the commons.
He said thorough evaluation by the Electoral Commission of a series of pilots in local authority elections, it was clear that all-postal ballots could significantly increase particpation levels in elections.
However, his colleague Geraldine Smith, Labour MP for Morecambe and Lunesdale, commented: 'Although regional government may excite some politicians, is it not the case that the soundings exercise in the north west proved that the vast majority of people were totally uninterested and unenthusiastic about a referendum?
'Will not those people consider a postal ballot a complete waste of taxpayers' money?'
Mr Raynsford said he profoundly disagreed. There were several thousand responses in the north west from a wide range of organisations representative of many thosands more people.
'I am surprised that she is resisting the option given to people in the north west to determine whether they should have an elected regional assembly. They will decide. That is democracy'.
Hansard 22 Oct 2003: Column 628 - 629