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Mr. Webb: To ask the Secretary of State for Health, pursuant to his answer of 8 March 2001, Official Report, column 323W, on correspondence, what the reasons were for the delay in replying to the letter from the hon. Member for Northavon. [153723]

Mr. Denham: The delay in replying to the hon. Member's letter resulted from the original correspondence being lost within the Department. A further copy was provided by fax on 20 November, to which a reply was sent. I know that the Permanent Secretary/Chief Executive of the National Health Service has written to the hon. Member to apologise for the unacceptable delay involved in this case. New operational procedures have also been introduced in the Department to ensure that this sort of delay should not happen again.