Parliamentary Questions

Environment Food and Rural Affairs written question – answered on 11th February 2004.

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Photo of Simon Burns Simon Burns Shadow Spokesperson (Health)

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many people seconded to her Department from outside organisations are helping to draft Answers to honourable Members' (a) oral and (b) written Parliamentary Questions.

Photo of Alun Michael Alun Michael Minister of State (Rural Affairs), Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Defra's Ministers see secondment and interchange as a key means of complementing the skills and experience of the civil service, drawing in expertise from such fields as business, local government and the voluntary sector as well as other Government Departments. This is assisting Defra's commitment to playing its part in developing a modern, flexible, outward looking Civil Service that works in partnership with all sectors of society. Interchange is seen as a key tool in meeting this commitment. Defra continues to promote and encourage the interchange of personnel between the Department and a range of other organisations.

The term "secondee" is used within the civil service in a more limited sense than the meaning used outside the civil service. In the civil service a secondee is a person "borrowed" from an organisation outside the Civil Service for a period of between three months, and three years (exceptionally five years), without affecting employment status. During the secondment period the secondee would remain an employee of the parent organisation but would be expected to abide by the Defra Staff handbook and the Official Secrets Act 1989. At the end of the secondment the secondee would return to the parent organisation.

Defra currently has 41 secondees from outside organisations. All are at Higher Executive Office grade and above. The secondees are appointed on the basis of the match of competencies and skills required for the post and in the case of the 41 formal secondees from outside organisations in Defra at present this may include drafting answers to PQ's. Although some details of the secondee and the parent organisation are held centrally, duties undertaken on a day to day basis would be a matter for their managers and are not centrally recorded. Detailed information could not be obtained without incurring disproportionate costs.

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