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20 Mar 2008 : Column WS41



20 Mar 2008 : Column WS41

Written Statements

Thursday 20 March 2008

Elections: Civil Service Guidance

Lord Davies of Oldham: My right honourable friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Edward Miliband) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

In line with established practice, guidance has today been issued to civil servants in UK departments on the principles which they should observe in relation to the conduct of government business in the run-up to the forthcoming elections to local authorities in England and Wales and to the Greater London Authority, which are taking place on 1 May 2008.

The guidance sets out the principles on the need to maintain the political impartiality of the Civil Service, and the need to ensure that public resources are not

20 Mar 2008 : Column WS42

used for party political purposes. The period of sensitivity preceding the local elections starts on 10 April.

Copies of the guidance have been placed in the Libraries of the House and on the Cabinet Office website at www.cabinetoffice.gov.uk/propriety_and_ ethics/civil_service/election_guidance.aspx.

Members' and Peers' Correspondence

Lord Davies of Oldham: My honourable friend the Parliamentary Secretary at the Cabinet Office (Tom Watson) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

I am today publishing a report on departments' and agencies' performance on handling Members' and Peers' correspondence during 2007. Details are set out in the attached table. Figures for 2006 were published on 28 March 2007 (Official Report, col. WS 101). Departmental figures are based on substantive replies unless otherwise indicated.

The footnotes to the table provide general background information on how the figures have been compiled.



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20 Mar 2008 : Column WS46

Correspondence from MPs/Peers to Ministers and Agency Chief Executives12007
Department or AgencyTarget set for reply (working days)Number of letters receivedPercentage of replies within target

Department for Business, Enterprise & Regulatory Reform2

15

7,502

74

Companies House

10

54

100

Insolvency Service

10

311

98

Cabinet Office

15

485

88

Department for Communities and Local Government

15

11,018

613

Planning Inspectorate

10

186

93

Crown Prosecution Service

15

422

99

Department for Children, Schools and Families4

15

16,383

92

Department for Culture, Media and Sport

20

5,449

77

Royal Parks Agency

20

17

94

Ministry of Defence

15

6,6825

486

Met Office

10

24

83

Service Personnel and Veterans Agency

15

645

98

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

15

14,068

73

Animal Health

15

61

94

Marine Fisheries Agency

15

33

96

Rural Payments Agency

15

645

407

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

20

9,792

92

UK Visas

20

401

77

Department of Health

20

19,329

92

Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency

20

193

80*

20

31

100*

NHS Purchasing and Supplies Agency

20

12

80*

*Agency Ministerial cases

**Letters sent directly to Agency Chief Executive, where Agency Chief Executives responded on behalf of Ministers

Food Standards Agency

*Letters where Health Ministers have replied

20

279*

72*

**Letters where Chief Executive/Chairman has replied

20

75**

95**

***DH Campaign letters8

20

142***

17***

Meat Hygiene Service

20

15

80

Home Office9

15

6,567

95

Criminal Records Bureau

10

505

95

Identity and Passport Service

10

931

90

Border and Immigration Agency10

20

43,178

82

HM Prison Service11

20

182

100

Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills12

15

2,125

73

UK Intellectual Property Office

15

289

96

Department for International Development

15

3,888

78

Ministry of Justice13

20

4,777

90*

*Letters where Ministers have replied

HM Courts Service

15

28

100**

Land Registry

20

134

97**

HM Prison Service14

20

320

99**

Public Guardianship Office15

15

94

96**

Official Solicitor and Public Trustee

15

31

100**

Tribunals Service

10

1,969

99**

**Letters where Chief Executive/Director General or officials have replied

Legal Secretariat to the Law Officers

20

554

87

Northern Ireland Office

15

432

81

Compensation Agency

10

49

96

Northern Ireland Prison Service

10

69

59

Office of the Leader of the House of Commons

15

475

94

HM Revenue and Customs

1516

4,779

70

* Local Office and "delegated" figures (where local tax offices have replied directly to MPs)

15

1197

6317

Scotland Office

15

95

77

Department for Transport

15

8,406

80

Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency

7

1,481

87

Driving Standards Agency

10

134

5418

Highways Agency

15

330

94

Vehicle and Operator Services Agency

15

69

100

HM Treasury

15

6,385

84

National Savings and Investments

15

18

78

Office for National Statistics

15

201

90

*Letters where the National Statistician replied on the Ministers’ behalf

10

161*

70

Valuation Office

18

26

73

Treasury Solicitor's Department

10

22

100

Wales Office

15

72

90

Department for Work and Pensions

20

10,379

92

Child Support Agency

15

6,650

92

Debt Management

15

69

100

Disability and Carers Service

15

416

91

Health and Safety Executive

15

259

85

Jobcentre Plus

15

1,727

90

The Pension Service

15

1,186

97

The Rent Service

15

12

100

    1. Departments and Agencies which received 10 MPs/Peers letters or fewer are not shown in this table. Holding or interim replies are not included unless otherwise indicated. The report does not include correspondence considered as Freedom of Information requests. 2. As part of Machinery of Government changes, The Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform was formed from the Department of Trade and Industry on 28 June 2007. The statistics include correspondence handling figures from DTI up until 27 June 2007 3. Communities and Local Government have improved performance substantially since 2006. Revision of their processes in February 2007 has led to continued improvement. 4. As part of Machinery of Government changes, The Department for Children, Schools and Families was formed from the Department for Education and Skills on 28 June 2007. The statistics include correspondence handling figures from DFES up until 27 June 2007 5. Database is unable to differentiate between letters from MPs/Peers and other correspondence, including FOI requests. Figures are therefore for all letters which received a ministerial reply. 6. Drop in performance caused in part by technical difficulties following the implementation of a new handling system. Arrangements have been introduced to improve performance, which has been made a priority by the Secretary of State. The figure for December 2007 was 69 per cent. 7. The percentage of replies within target has increased from 23 per cent in 2006, and performance has steadily improved throughout the year. Many of the letters that the RPA responds to involve complex casework and these take time to resolve effectively. 8. The campaign correspondence exclusively concerned regulations relating to the marketing of infant and follow-on formula and a delay resulting from finalisation of those regulations. 9. As part of Machinery of Government changes, the Respect Task Force moved to the Department for Children, Schools and Families on 28 June 2007. The figures include performance of the Respect Task Force up to and including 27 June. 10. Former Immigration and Nationality Directorate prior to 1 April 2007 11. As part of Machinery of Government changes, the Office of Criminal Justice Reform (OCJR) and the National Offender Management Service/HM Prison Service moved to the Ministry of Justice on 5 May 2007. The above figures include performance of the OCJR and the HM Prison Service up to and including 4 May. 12. As part of Machinery of Government changes, The Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills was formed from parts of the Department for Education and Skills and the Department of Trade and Industry on 28 June 2007. Figures are for 28 June 2007 onwards. 13. The Ministry of Justice was formed from the Department for Constitutional Affairs and part of the Home Office on 9 May 2007 14. Part of the Home Office until 4 May 2007; figures for only 9 May-31 December 2007 15. Former Public Guardianship Office prior to 1 October 2007 16 HMRC reduced response targets from 18 days to 15 days 17. Performance significantly improved in the last quarter of 2007 when the average clearance time was reduced to less than 10 days 18 Drop in performance following changes in the way correspondence statistics are collected. The necessary measures have been implemented to improve performance.

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