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Complaints

Mr. Breed: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many complaints were registered against his Department in (a) 1990 to 1996 and (b) 1997 to 2002; how many are current; and what proportion were (i) taken up and (ii) upheld by the Parliamentary Commissioner for Administration in those periods. [51220]

Mr. Straw [holding answer 19 April 2002]: Information on the number of complaints registered and that are current is not held centrally and could be provided only at disproportionate cost.

However, information on the outcome of statutory investigations that were concluded between 1990 and 1996 is set out in the Parliamentary Ombudsman's Annual Reports. Copies of the Annual Reports covering the period specified are available in the Library.

Information on the proportion of complaints taken up and upheld by Parliamentary Commissioner for Administration between 1990 and 1996 is not held centrally and could be provided only at disproportionate cost.

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Between 1997 and 2002 69 complaints were taken up by the Parliamentary Commissioner for Administration. Of these, 44 were either rejected or discontinued and 10 were informally resolved. In the remaining 15 cases, where a full investigation was carried out, the PCA found that three complaints were justified, 10 partly justified and two not justified.

Complaints received by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office are handled in line with FCO complaints procedure, details of which are publicised on the FCO website at www.fco.gov.uk.

Voluntary Sector (Funding)

Mr. Letwin: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, pursuant to the answer to the hon. Member for South-West Bedfordshire of 25 January 2002, Official Report, columns 1185W-86W on Government funding of the voluntary sector, if he will list the grant schemes and other mechanisms by which (a) his Department and (b) the Westminster Foundation for Democracy distributes funding to voluntary sector organisations. [51403]

Mr. Straw [holding answer 19 April 2002]: The FCO may award grants to both national and international voluntary sector organisations from its Conflict Prevention Fund, Human Rights Project Fund, Economic Recovery Fund, Environmental Projects Fund and other funds administered by specific geographical or policy Departments. Individual projects are assessed for awards against criteria based on the FCO's aims and objectives.

Decisions on support for projects made by the Westminster Foundation for Democracy are made by their board, drawing on the advice of the FCO.

Zimbabwe

Mr. Ancram: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, pursuant to his answer of 15 April 2002, Official Report, column 724W, on Zimbabwe, if he will make his substantive reply. [51948]

Mr. Straw: I refer the right hon. Member to the answer given to my hon. Friend the Member for Stalybridge and Hyde (Mr. James Purnell) on 19 April 2002, Official Report, column 1208W.

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER

Non-departmental Public Bodies

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what have been the total salary costs of each of the non- departmental public bodies for which he is responsible in each of the last five years. [50298]

Mr. Leslie: The salary costs of the Equal Opportunities Commission can be found in the annual report and accounts for the years in question up to 2000–01. Copies are held in the Library.

The Cabinet Office currently has 12 advisory NDPBs. Information on the salary costs of these NDPBs is not held centrally and could be provided only at disproportionate cost.

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Family-friendly Working Practices

Julie Morgan: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what recent action he has taken to encourage family-friendly working practices in the civil service with special reference to the weekly hours worked. [48829]

Mr. Leslie: Over 14 per cent. of civil servants (some 60,000 staff) now work a flexible hours pattern.

Officials in the Cabinet Office have been working in partnership with Departments and consultants on work-life balance issues over the last 12 months.

Projects have been undertaken with the Inland Revenue and Department of Trade and Industry and guidance is being produced for Departments and agencies. These will address issues of particular concern to part-time staff in the Civil Service Diversity Survey:


These guides are currently in working draft with Government Departments and will be available on the Cabinet Office Diversity website (www.diversity-whatworks.gov.uk) in autumn 2002.

Departmental Functions

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister if he will list the functions of his Department that have been (a) market tested and (b) outsourced in each of the last five years, specifying the (i) money saving and (ii) percentage saving in each case. [43001]

Mr. Leslie: In the last five years no Cabinet Office functions were outsourced.

In that period COI outsourced the following:










WORK AND PENSIONS

Data Protection Act

Matthew Taylor: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what the policy of the Department is for ensuring responses to requests for information under the Data Protection Act 1998 are completed within 40 days; and what their procedure is to achieve this. [33476]

Mr. McCartney: The Department's policy is to reply to all subject access requests as soon as possible and in any event within the 40-day mandatory deadline. The 40 days do not start "ticking" until sufficient information is received from the data subject to satisfy the data controller [DWP] as to the identity of the data subject making the request and to enable him to locate the information that they are seeking.

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Civil Servants

Mr. Burstow: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will set out for each civil service grade within his (a) Department and (b) Department's executive agencies the (i) total number of staff employed, (ii) number aged (A) 16 to 25, (B) 26 to 35, (C) 36 to 45, (D) 46 to 60 and (E) over the age of 60 years, (iii) number of registered disabled and (iv) number of ethnic minorities. [39154]

Maria Eagle: I refer the hon. Member to the answer given by my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary for the Cabinet Office (Mr. Leslie) on 13 March 2002, Official Report, column 1072W.

Verification Framework

Mr. Kirkwood: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (1) what has been the cost of setting up the verification framework; and what assessment has he made of the costs to local authorities in excess of central Government funding; [42256]

Malcolm Wicks: The verification framework (VF) was introduced in May 1998 and aims to tighten the gateway onto housing benefit and council tax benefit. It does so through a set of defined standards for collecting and checking evidence before a claim can be paid and during the lifetime of the claim. From April 2002 the VF has been separated into three modules allowing authorities to introduce the scheme incrementally.

Authorities who apply to join the scheme receive a one-off payment as set-up funding and funding to continue operating once they become fully compliant with the scheme module or modules that they have chosen.

Details of total sums spent to date are in the table.

In August 2000, a number of local authorities already compliant with the VF took part in a departmental survey 1 of the cost to local authorities of setting up and running the framework. The results of the survey indicated that implementation and operating costs vary considerably between local authorities, so it is not possible to provide a generalised estimate of the costs for local authorities.

Amount spent on set-up and continuing costs for the verification framework
£000

Set-up costsContinuing costs
1998–994,900580
1999–200015,46513,662
2000–013,48420,898
2001–027,24431,338
Total to date31,09366,478

Notes:

1. 1998–99, 1999–2000 and 2000–01 data obtained from published departmental accounts.

2. 2001–02 data obtained from departmental housing benefit/council tax benefit administrative payments system.

3. The data does not account for costs repaid after the close of the relevant financial year.


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1 Cost of the Verification Framework, DSS Operational Research, Analytical Services Division 2A, published April 2001.


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