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Written Answers to Questions

Thursday 18 November 2004

ELECTORAL COMMISSION

Encouragement to Vote

Mr. Evans: To ask the hon. Member for Gosport, representing the Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission how much money the Electoral Commission is spending on encouraging (a) young people and (b) people who are living abroad to vote. [198640]

Mr. Viggers: The Electoral Commission has a duty to promote public awareness of current electoral systems in the United Kingdom. The chairman has informed me that, in pursuance of this, the commission has an ongoing programme of awareness raising activity. Within this, it has allocated about £705,000 in the current financial year specifically to measures aimed at raising levels of awareness among young people, principally through its Outreach programme. The commission's activity in relation to overseas voters this year focuses on measures aimed at reminding them of their electoral rights. The commission expects to spend about £9,000 on this work in the current financial year. All figures include estimated staff costs.

HOUSE OF COMMONS COMMISSION

Board of Management

Angela Eagle: To ask the hon. Member for Roxburgh and Berwickshire, representing the House of Commons Commission what plans there are for the representation of hon. Members on the Board of Management of the House. [198772]

Sir Archy Kirkwood: The Commission has no plans to appoint hon. Members to the Board of Management. The board, which is composed of the most senior management of the House of Commons Service, operates on the basis of an Instrument of Delegation from the Commission, which retains responsibility for setting strategy and taking major decisions. The board's primary function is to co-ordinate and oversee the provision of services to the House of Commons and to advise the Commission and the Finance and Services Committee on these matters. In addition, the Administration Estimate Audit Committee, comprised of two members of the Commission and two external members, has among its functions the encouragement of best financial practice, use of resources and governance in the House administration.

Department of Finance and Administration

Rob Marris: To ask the hon. Member for Roxburgh and Berwickshire, representing the House of Commons Commission how much office accommodation would
 
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be vacated if staff of the Department of Finance and Administration were to be relocated outside London. [198774]

Sir Archy Kirkwood: The Department of Finance and Administration occupies 1,800 square metres of office space, predominantly open plan, in 7 Millbank.

Angela Eagle: To ask the hon. Member for Roxburgh and Berwickshire, representing the House of Commons Commission whether there are plans for an organisation and methods study of the Finance and Administration Department. [198769]

Sir Archy Kirkwood: The Commission has no plans for an organisation and methods study of the Department of Finance and Administration. The Department of Finance and Administration underwent a review in 2002 which made a series of recommendations to improve its performance. These were implemented later in 2002 and 2003, with some work continuing through other projects. Work to review and improve processes is being carried out as part of the programme to extend use of the House Administrative Information System (HAIS) covering finance and human resource management.

Mr. Robathan: To ask the hon. Member for Roxburgh and Berwickshire, representing the House of Commons Commission whether an assessment has been made of the potential for hot desking in the Finance and Administration Department. [198868]

Sir Archy Kirkwood: There has been no formal assessment of the potential for hot desking in the Department of Finance and Administration. Some short-term staff and contractors do use available staff desks.

Department of the Clerk of the House

Angela Eagle: To ask the hon. Member for Roxburgh and Berwickshire, representing the House of Commons Commission whether there are plans for an organisation and methods study of the Department of the Clerk of the House. [198770]

Sir Archy Kirkwood: The Commission has no plans for an organisation and methods study of the Department of the Clerk of the House. Select Committee staff amount to more than half of the strength of the Clerk's Department. Following a report from the Modernisation Committee, and the agreement of the House and the House of Commons Commission, a Review of Select Committee resources was carried out in 2002–03 by a team consisting of staff from the National Audit Office and the House's Internal Review Service. A further review of Select Committee resources is envisaged in 2007–08.

Rob Marris: To ask the hon. Member for Roxburgh and Berwickshire, representing the House of Commons Commission what cost benefit analysis has been carried out on the use of computer workstations by staff in the Department of the Clerk of the House. [198771]

Sir Archy Kirkwood: The effective delivery of services to the House and hon. Members involves the extensive
 
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use of new technology and could not be achieved without the use of workstations by members of the Clerk's Department. The Department's investment in the development and use of IS/IT systems is subject to formal appraisal.

A recent study of computer desktops in all House of Commons departments recommended that their life could be extended from three years to four years and the Board of Management has accepted this recommendation. Future spending on IT desktop equipment will reflect this decision.

Department of the Serjeant at Arms

Rob Marris: To ask the hon. Member for Roxburgh and Berwickshire, representing the House of Commons Commission whether the Commission has plans to (a) carry out and (b) commission an organisation and methods study of the Serjeant at Arms' Department. [198773]

Sir Archy Kirkwood: The Commission has no plans to carry out or commission an organisation and methods study of the Serjeant at Arms Department. A comprehensive study of the organisation and methods of the department was carried out by Michael Braithwaite in 2000–01 following his review of the House of Commons service, resulting in substantial reorganisation.

Mr. Robathan: To ask the hon. Member for Roxburgh and Berwickshire, representing the House of Commons Commission how many staff were employed in the Serjeant at Arms Department (a) in 1974, (b) in 2000 and (c) at the latest date for which figures are available. [198869]

Sir Archy Kirkwood: Numbers of staff employed in the Serjeant at Arms Department have been as follows:
Number
1979(1)(2)181
2000(2)307.5
2004(3)407


(1) No published data is available before this date. The figure is taken from the first Annual Report of the Commission.
(2) Complement.
(3) Average full-time equivalent.


Mr. Garnier: To ask the hon. Member for Roxburgh and Berwickshire, representing the House of Commons Commission whether a cost benefit analysis has been carried out on the use of computer workstations by staff in the Serjeant at Arms Department. [199180]

Sir Archy Kirkwood: Computers are an essential piece of equipment for many of the staff in the Serjeant at Arms Department. They are only issued to those staff who require them to perform their work. Where possible, they are shared.

A recent study of computer desktops in all House of Commons Departments recommended that their life should be extended from three years to four years and the Board of Management has accepted this recommendation. Future spending on IT desktop equipment will reflect this decision.
 
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The House's procurement arrangements are developed to ensure that competitive prices are achieved.

Mr. Garnier: To ask the hon. Member for Roxburgh and Berwickshire, representing the House of Commons Commission what assessment he has made of the potential for hot desking in the Serjeant at Arms Department. [199181]

Sir Archy Kirkwood: There has been no formal assessment of the potential for hot desking in the Serjeant at Arms Department. Some short-term staff and contractors use staff desks as available.

Mr. Garnier: To ask the hon. Member for Roxburgh and Berwickshire, representing the House of Commons Commission what the cost was of purchasing computer workstations for staff in the Serjeant at Arms Department in the last year for which figures are available. [199182]

Sir Archy Kirkwood: The Parliamentary Communications Directorate (PCD) within the Serjeant at Arms Department provides IT services to both Houses as well as to the Serjeant at Arms Department itself. A wide range of equipment is purchased each year in support of this function. Financial records do not show separately the cost of computer workstations procured for the Department.


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