Correspondence

Oral Answers to Questions — Duchy of Lancaster – in the House of Commons at 1:40 pm on 4 February 1998.

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Photo of Simon Burns Simon Burns Shadow Spokesperson (Communities and Local Government) 1:40, 4 February 1998

What guidance he provides to civil servants concerning the time taken to answer correspondence from hon. Members; and what monitoring he carries out. [25362]

Photo of Peter Kilfoyle Peter Kilfoyle Parliamentary Secretary, Cabinet Office

Each Minister in charge of a Department is responsible for ensuring that the handling of correspondence in that Department is effective, and that robust and challenging target times are set for replies to letters from hon. Members. Individual Ministers are also responsible for monitoring their Department's performance against those target times. My Department collates and publishes information for all Departments annually.

Photo of Simon Burns Simon Burns Shadow Spokesperson (Communities and Local Government)

I am grateful to the Minister for that reply. In a genuine and non-party political way, I stress that there is concern about deteriorating standards and the length of time that hon. Members must wait before receiving ministerial replies to constituents' queries. Some 63 per cent. of my correspondence does not receive a reply until after four weeks and 23 per cent. does not receive a reply until after nine weeks. Will the Minister speak to his Government colleagues about trying to tighten up the system and restore the standards that applied before 1 May?

Photo of Peter Kilfoyle Peter Kilfoyle Parliamentary Secretary, Cabinet Office

The hon. Gentleman will know that the Office of Public Service is responsible for collating and reviewing such information; that process is on-going. Individual Departments are responsible to individual Ministers. Last year, in the Office of Public Service, 63 per cent. of correspondence met the target date. So far this year, under the new Government, that figure has gone up to 97 per cent.