The deputy leader of Birmingham City Council is using the Freedom of Information Act in an attempt to uncover secret Government deliberations on postal vote fraud.

Councillor John Hemming wants access to the cabinet committee minutes for April 20 last year, where it is believed Ministers discussed the possibility of clamping down on postal ballot cheats but decided to postpone legislation until after the June 2004 local authority elections.

The elections raised claims of widespread corruption and postal vote cheating across the country, particularly in Birmingham where a high court judge ruled a week ago that six Labour councillors owed their election to a systematic campaign of fraud.

The six, representing Aston and Bordesley Green, were expelled from the council.

Richard Mawrey QC, the election commissioner, said the system was wide open to fraud and said events in Birmingham would have shamed a Banana republic.

Mr Mawrey said he was certain that hundreds of postal votes were fiddled by Labour in a number of other inner city council wards.

Coun Hemming (Lib Dem South Yardley), the prospective Liberal Democrat candidate for Birmingham Yardley in the General Election, is seeking a judicial review to force the Government to introduce emergency measures to make postal voting secure.

He is inviting the High Court to declare the General Election unlawful because of the ease with which postal votes can be abused compromises the secret ballot.

Reports in a national newspaper at the weekend suggested that the Cabinet deliberately held back from tightening postal vote security because Ministers feared lower turnout at the local elections would harm Labour's chances.

Coun Hemming said: "I have a right under the Freedom of Information Act to see the Cabinet committee minutes.

"I am formally inviting the Government to deny the stories circulating over the weekend."