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Genetically Modified Organisms

10. Mr. Swayne: To ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office if she will make a statement about her responsibility with regard to presentation of Government policy on genetically modified organisms. [120444]

Marjorie Mowlam: My primary role has been the co-ordination of biotechnology policy across Government through the Ministerial group on Biotechnology Misc6.

In presenting policy on GMOs I have been articulating the Government's priority which is effective regulation for the protection of human health and the environment.

Government Services (Delivery)

11. Mr. Ronnie Campbell: To ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office what discussions she has had with her counterparts in other countries on improving the delivery of Government services. [120445]

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Marjorie Mowlam: There is a lot of international interest in our programme to modernise government and improve public services; and I am always keen to benefit from what others have found works for them. I have had discussions with counterparts and officials in the following countries:

Special Advisers

12. Mr. Paterson: To ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office if she will make a statement on the number of special advisers employed by the Government. [120446]

Mr. Stringer: I refer the hon. Member to my answer of 15 December 1999, Official Report, column 227W. Since then, a further five Special Advisers have been appointed.

Manufacturing (Regulations)

13. Mr. Nicholas Winterton: To ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office if she will calculate how many regulations controlling the activities of manufacturing businesses have been passed since May 1997. [120447]

Mr. Stringer: This information is not kept in the form requested and could be provided only at disproportionate cost.

Since August 1998, every regulation likely to have a significant impact on businesses, charities or voluntary organisations has been subject to a thorough assessment procedure. These regulatory impact assessments are placed in the Libraries of the House. The particular business sectors upon which each regulation impacts are not recorded separately.

Government Services (Accessibility)

14. Ms Julie Morgan: To ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office how she intends to make Government services more accessible and responsive to the people they serve. [120449]

Marjorie Mowlam: We have appointed consumer champions in all the key central Government services, to find out and meet their users' wishes. We have been working hard to ensure we consult the public better and more widely about policy and services.

We are working to provide extended opening hours in the services where there is greatest demand, and we will provide electronic access to all services by 2005.

Drug Prevention (Lancashire)

15. Mr. Borrow: To ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office what plans she has to improve the long-term funding of drug prevention schemes in Lancashire. [120450]

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Marjorie Mowlam: Local Drug Action Teams work in partnership with local agencies such as health and local authorities, police, probation and local education authorities to decide the financial priorities for drug prevention within their area according to local need. The Lancashire Drug Action Team receives a grant from the Home Office's Drug Prevention Advisory Service (DPAS) to fund its running costs. However, funding for their activities is channelled for the most part through local agencies. In addition, the Government's spending review is looking at ways to streamline funding and strengthen local delivery.

Parliamentary Questions

16. Helen Jackson: To ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office what progress has been made in the speeding up of replies to parliamentary questions. [120451]

Marjorie Mowlam: I met the Speaker on 18 April to discuss performance in replying to Parliamentary Questions and correspondence from hon. Members. It was a constructive meeting. I set out the action that we had already taken over the last 12 months to improve performance: writing to Departments at Ministerial and Permanent Secretary level; workshops on the effective handling of correspondence; central seminars for staff involved in handling PQs. For the future, we also propose central training for staff in Parliamentary branches and elsewhere who have regular dealings with Parliament to ensure there is a good grasp of essentials. We will shortly be revising and reissuing central guidance to all Departments on the handling of correspondence.

Departmental Websites

17. Mr. Evans: To ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office what guidance she gives Departments on the contents of departmental websites. [120454]

Mr. Ian McCartney: The Guidelines for Government Websites give detailed guidance on content. They are available on the Information Age Champions website at and I have today arranged for a copy to be placed in the Libraries of the House.

Rural White Paper

18. Mr. Tyler: To ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office what Government Department will be given responsibility for the integration of policy initiatives following the rural White Paper. [120455]

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Marjorie Mowlam: Problems facing rural communities cannot be tackled in isolation by an individual Department--we will get the best results by central Government working in a joined-up way. Primary responsibility for rural policy lies with my right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister while the Cabinet Committee on Rural Affairs, which I chair, will play an important co-ordination role.

Ombudsman Service

19. Mr. Caton: To ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office if she will make a statement concerning the review of the Ombudsman service. [120456]

Mr. Stringer: I refer my hon. Friend to the answer I gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Morecambe and Lunesdale (Miss Smith) on 13 April 2000, Official Report, column 241W.

Public Bodies (Appointments)

20. Mr. Bill O'Brien: To ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office what plans she has to change the system for making appointments to public bodies; and if she will make a statement. [120457]

Mr. Stringer: I have no such plans at present. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health is considering changes to the NHS appointments process, in the light of the recent report of the Commissioner for Public Appointments.

Drug Action Teams

22. Mr. Russell Brown: To ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office what contribution is made by drug action teams to the delivery of the Government's drugs strategy. [120459]

Mr. Ian McCartney: Drug Action Teams (DATs) have a crucial role in the delivery of the National Drugs Strategy. They are the main mechanism for delivery on the ground, they work as a local partnership of the agencies involved in tackling drugs such as, Probation, Health, Education, Police Authorities and Local Authorities. DATs are required to plan and deliver an effective programme of activities for drugs which supports the National Strategy. DATs identify gaps in their provision and seek to address this. They assess what is being done in their area under each aim of the strategy, what is being spent and by whom and monitor the success of local initiatives.