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Mr. Allen: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what steps he has taken since May 1997 to invite members of the public to volunteer to serve on (a) taskforces and (b) other ad hoc advisory bodies; and how many such volunteers have been appointed. 
Mr. Leslie: Task forces, ad hoc advisory groups and reviews are by their nature created to provide advice on a particular subject or subject area. Ministers can, and often do, seek participants from a wide range of backgrounds to provide the best possible advice. Many of them give their time and efforts freely, though precise details are not held centrally.
Mr. Andrew Turner: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister if he will list members of local and national public appointments commissions, stating in each case (a) what other public appointments each has held and when, (b) what political affiliation each has recorded, and when, and (c) the postal district of their place of residence. 
Mr. Leslie: The post of the Commissioner for Public Appointments was established by the previous administration in 1995, in response to a recommendation made by the Committee on Standards in Public Life in its
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First Report (Cm 2580). The Commissioner is appointed by the Queen under the Public Appointments Order in Council 1995, as amended by the Public Appointments Order in Council 1998, and is independent of both the Government and the Civil Service.
The present Commissioner is Dame Rennie Fritchie, who was appointed for an original three-year term in 1999, and who has since been re-appointed to serve a further three-year term from March 2002 to February 2005.
Dame Rennie was previously Chair of Gloucester Health Authority from 19881992; South-Western Regional Health Authority from 19921994; South and Western Region NHS Executive (formerly South and Western Regional Health Authority) from 19941997. There is no requirement on holders of this office to record their political affiliation, if any. I am advised by the Commissioner's Office that the postal district of Dame Rennie's place of residence is GL1.
In April 2001, the Government established an independent NHS Appointments Commission. At present there are around 4,000 chairs and non-executives on NHS boards whose appointments are now the responsibility of the Commission. The Commission has a Chair, Sir William Wells and eight Regional Commissioners namely, Mrs. Gillian Camm, Mrs. Jane Isaacs, Dr. John Marshall, Sir Ian Mills, Mrs. Brenda Sills, Mr. Michael Taylor, Mrs. Rosie Varley and Mr. Bernard Williams. Details of previous public appointments that they have held are contained in the press releases announcing their appointments, copies of which are in the libraries of the House. There is no requirement on the Chair or the Regional Commissioners to record their political affiliation, if any.
I am advised by the NHS Appointments Commission that the Chair and the Regional Commissioners live in the following postal districts, Sir William Wells (TW10), Mrs. Camm (GL13), Mrs. Isaacs (WV1), Dr. Marshall (DL2), Sir Ian Mills (SE13), Mrs. Sills (NG31), Mr. Taylor (CH1), Mrs. Varley (IP33) and Mr. Williams (SL6).
Mrs. May: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister (1) what the estimated expenditure by regional observatories is in England in the current financial year; and what proportion of this expenditure will by financed by central Government;  (2) which Government department has responsibility for overseeing the regional observatories and if he will make a statement on their purpose. 
Mrs. Roche: Regional observatories are independent entities formed by partnerships of regional organisations, including academic institutions, regional assemblies, regional development agencies, and Government Offices for the Regions. They aim to share the production, analysis and dissemination of intelligence and research related to regional policy. No Government department has responsibility for overseeing them.
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Each regional observatory has been established as a local initiative. Funding has to date been from a variety of sources and is often in kind. The table below shows the current progress of each observatory and sources of funding.
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It has not been possible to itemise the amount of funding for each observatory, given the mix of funding from different sources. Government Office of the Region contributions have been in staff time rather than financial contribution and the table includes estimates. Some of the expenditure would have been incurred in any case by the various sponsor organisations.
|Region||Status||Lead Partners||Funding Source||Government Office Input|
|North East||Planning Stage||ONE North East, North East Regional Assembly, Government Office for the North East||None as yet||8 per cent of 1 staff year|
|North West||Operational as the North West Regional Intelligence Unit||North West Development Agency||Mainly North West Development Agency||7 per cent of 1 staff year|
|Yorkshire & the Humber||Operational as Yorkshire Futures Regional Intelligence Network||Yorkshire Forward, Government Office for Yorkshire & Humberside, South Yorks Learning & Skills Council, Yorkshire Universities, Northern & Yorkshire and Trent Public Health Observatories||Yorkshire Forward, Skills Development Fund, European Social Fund Objective 3||5 per cent of 1 staff year|
|East Midlands||Operational as East Midlands Observatory||East Midlands Development Agency, Regional Assembly, East Midlands Local Government Association, Government Office for the East Midlands||East Midlands Development Agency, Regional Assembly, East Midlands Local Government Association, European Social Fund Objective 3, Northants Chamber of Commerce||11 per cent of 1 staff year|
|West Midlands||Planning Stage||Advantage West Midlands||*Advantage West Midlands, European Social Fund Objective 2, European Union Framework 6||20 per cent of 1 staff year|
|East of England||Operational as East of England Observatory||East of England Development Agency, Government Office for the East of England, County Local Economic Partnerships, Local Govt Conference, Eastern Region Public Health Observatory||East of England Development Agency, Regional Innovation Fund||9 per cent of 1 staff year|
|London||Not operational||Greater London Authority||None as yet||Minimal|
|South East||Not operational||Government Office of the South East, South East England Development Agency, Regional Assembly||None as yet||10 per cent of 1 staff year|
|South West||Under Development||South West Regional Assembly, South West Regional Development Agency, Department of Health, GOSW, Environment Agency, SW Higher Education Regional Development Association||South West Regional Development Agency, Department of Health, Environment Agency, South West Regional Assembly||7 per cent of 1 staff year|
The Deputy Prime Minister and First Secretary of State: I will not attend the Bali Preparatory Conference and have never intended to. This is a matter for the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs who will lead the delegation in the normal way as I explained to the hon. Member for Westmorland and Lonsdale at Cabinet Office questions on 22 May, Official Report, column 282.
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs estimated the cost of the UK delegation to be approximately £180,000, inclusive of air fares, hotel rooms, subsistence and office accommodation. This figure represents less than half of the total cost incurred in responding to questions tabled by the hon. Member since the 2001 election.
Mr. Salmond: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what the Government's policy is on when it is appropriate for it publicly to consult on potential changes in legislation; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Leslie: Other than statutory requirements, it is for individual government departments and agencies to decide when it is appropriate for them publicly to consult on potential changes to legislation. The Cabinet Office encourages departments undertaking public consultations to follow the principles set out in the Code of Practice on Written Consultation.
Mr. Tony Clarke: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister if he will publish figures showing (a) the volume of correspondence received by ministers and agency chief executives from hon. Members in 2001, (b) the target times set for replies and (c) the number of replies sent within target times. 
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Mr. Leslie: The attached table sets out Departments' and Agencies' performance in handling hon. Members' correspondence during the 2001 calendar year. It also sets out comparative figures for 2000 (first published on 6 April 2001, Official Report, columns 324W327W). I am
24 May 2002 : Column 674W
pleased to report that the table continues to show a steady improvement in overall performance.
|Department or Agency||Target set for reply (working days)||Number of letters received||per cent of replies within target||Target set for reply (working days)||Number of letters received||per cent of replies within target|
|Leader of the House of Lord's Office(6)||||||||15||53||80|
|Crown Prosecution Service(7)||15||18||100||15||97||94|
|Department for Culture, Media and Sport||18||3,240||82||18||4,416||90|
|HM Customs and Excise(8)||18||2,977||68||18||2,452||62|
|Ministry of Defence(9)||15||4,592||78||15||5,350||85|
|Army Personnel Centre||15||38||95||15||34||97|
|Pay & Personnel Agency||10||31||43|||||||
|War Pensions Agency(10)||20||395||99||20||279||99|
|Department for Education and Skills(11)||15||22,318||72||15||18,237||76|
|Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs(12)||15||6,137||30||15||9,905||34|
|Foreign and Commonwealth Office||20||9,020||78||20||10,275||79|
|Joint Entry Clearance Unit||||||||15||8,276||78|
|Department of Health||20||18,621||50||20||19,665||60|
|Food Standards Agency||||||||20||770||70|
|NHS Pensions Agency||15||54||85||15||65||98|
|Medicines Control Agency||15||25||68||10||17||82|
|*Non Prison Service correspondence||15||18,748||41||15||*16,251||35|
|**Prison Service correspondence||20||1,289||79||20(14)||**1,210||78|
|HM Prison Service||20||2,306||75||20||1,272||75|
|UK Passport Agency||10||188||100||10||279||87|
|*All ministerial correspondence||18||5,770||72||18||*3,356||77|
|**Replies by departmental officials||23||533||53||18(15)||**382||75|
|Department for International Development(16)||15||1,769||82||15||1,740||87|
|Legal Secretariat to the Law Officers||15||204||93||15||284||96|
|Lord Chancellor's Department||20||1,844||74||20||1,737||74|
|HM Land Registry||20||41||93||20||24||79|
|Public Records Office||20||26||100||10||11||100|
|Public Guardianship Office(18)||15||124||88||15||120||62|
|Northern Ireland Office(19)||10||594||71||10||358||49|
|Compensation Agency for NI||7||16||100||7||27||93|
|Northern Ireland Prison Service||10||37||70||10||27||78|
|Office for National Savings||10||154||86||15||63||62|
|Office for National Statistics||15||192||77|
|*Letters where Chief Executive replied on Minister's behalf||10||167||79||10||154*||63|
|President of the Council's Office||15||271||94||15||237||74|
|Department for Trade and Industry(20)||10||18,858||60||10||9,260||49|
|Employment Tribunals Service||10||30||97||15||12||100|
|Small Business Service(22)||||||||10||47||96|
|Department for Transport, Local||15||19,636||69||15||14,375||84|
|Government and the Regions(23)|
|Driving Standards Agency||15||91||99||15||82||100|
|Maritime and Coastguard Agency||15||19||100||15||21||95|
|Treasury Solicitor's Department||10||35||100||10||39||100|
|Department for Work and Pensions(25)||20||16,283||75||20||12,698||66|
|Child Support Agency(27)||18||5,806||97||20||3,293||58|
(5)The 2000 figures are taken from the 6 April 2001, Official Report, columns 324W327W. Please refer to relevant footnotes regarding 2000 figures. Departments and Agencies who received a total of 10 letters or less from MPs during 2001 are not shown in this table.
(6)The figures relate to correspondence until General Election and are in connection with Baroness Jay's role as Minister for Women. Correspondence after Election refers to House business only, therefore, information on that is not included.
(7)Letters in 2001 addressed to the Law Officers, but subsequently replied to by the Director of Public Prosecutions. In addition the CPS received 480 letters direct from MPs in 2001. 92 per cent replied to within 15 working days.
(8)Includes all Ministerial replies, not only replies to letters from MPs.
(9)Figures include correspondence from Members of Devolved Legislatures, MEPs and Peers.
(10)Agency transferred across from the former Department of Social Security with effect from 11 June 2001.
(11)2000 figures are for the Department for Education and Employment. 2001 figures reflect machinery of government changes at the General Election, include figures for former Department for Education and Employment.
(12)2000 figures are for the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. 2001 figures reflect machinery of government changes at the General Election, include figures for former Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. Progress to improve MAFF/DEFRA's performance on correspondence in 2001 was severely hindered by the foot and mouth disease crisis, as well as convergence issues arising from the creation of the new Department. DEFRA's performance is now much improved, with most letters receiving responses within a month of receipt, and around 50 per cent of responses currently issuing within the Departmental target of 15 working days.
(13)Home Office is aware of the poor performance in 2001, however, the Home Secretary is taking the necessary steps to improve performance in 2002. This has had a positive impact on the performance for the first quarter of this year.
(14)The 20 working day target takes account of particular geographical circumstances. The target is the same whether replies are sent by Minister or by the Director General.
(15)Target has been reduced from 23 days to 18.
(16)If replies to letters about the Afghanistan crisis were excluded (SeptDec) overall per cent of replies within targets would be 92 per cent.
(17)Letters signed by the Agency Chief Executive of the Court Service, whether received direct or transferred from Ministers.
(18)Formerly the Public Trust Office, re-named as the PGO with effect from 1 April 2001.
(19)Reflects the impact of devolution and requirements for consultation with outside agencies.
(20)2001 figures reflect correspondence from MPs only. 2000 figures reflect all Ministerial correspondence. DTI aware of poor performance in 2001 and are currently reviewing their correspondence handling system.
(21)94 per cent of letters were answered within agreed extended deadlines.
(22)Response time recorded for 32 of letters received. No response time recorded for 15 letters.
(23)2000 figures are for the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions. 2001 figures reflect machinery of government changes at the General Election, include figures for former Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions.
(24)Includes all Ministerial replies, not only replies to letters from MPs.
(25)2000 figures are for the Department of Social Security. 2001 figures reflect machinery of government changes at the General Election, include figures for former Department of Social Security. In the period from June 2001, following the introduction of the Department for Work and Pensions, the average response time was reduced from 18 to 15 working days and 71 per cent of the replies were sent within target.
(26)The average handling time, which covers all letters, was 14 working days. For the second half of the period 1 June to 31 December the percentage of replies within the target rose to 82 per cent.
(27)The average handling time which covers all letters was 21 working days. CSA has now changed its complaints handling process. Senior managers are more responsible for the timeliness and quality of responses. The role of the Parliamentary Correspondence Unit has been changed to an active performance management and escalation function reporting directly to the Chief Executive.
(28)An Agency of DWP following machinery of government changes at the General Election. 2001 figures also include letters received when an Agency of the former Department for Education and Employment.
24 May 2002 : Column 675W
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