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Phone Helplines

House of Lords written question – answered on 24th July 2013.

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Photo of Lord Birt Lord Birt Crossbench

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they will reconsider the use of premium-rate phone charges for government helplines.

Photo of Lord Wallace of Saltaire Lord Wallace of Saltaire Lords Spokesperson (Cabinet Office), Lord in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

The National Audit Office recently issued their report on ‘Charges for customer telephone lines’, and we are examining their recommendations.

The overall direction of this government is to reduce the level of telephony as a channel for citizens communicating and transacting with Government. The Government Digital Strategy sets out how government will re-design its digital services to make them so straightforward and convenient that all those who can use them will choose to do so, whilst assisted digital support is being developed so that those who cannot are not excluded, protecting vulnerable groups in particular. By implication, then, the use of call centres and telephones will diminish over time, alongside the issue of charging.

In the past, Government has not been joined up in reviewing the use of paid-for numbers, so a more coordinated approach is required. Where possible, we should negotiate the best deal for the taxpayer. Government’s Crown Representatives have already helped use our unique buying power to negotiate over £800m of savings last year alone. We are always looking for opportunities to achieve more.

Hard-working families would expect us to address the issues raised by the NAO in their report, and we will do so.

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