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Geraint Davies: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister if he will make a statement on the performance of the main Departments and agencies against the six service standards for central Government over the last financial year. 
In most cases, Departments' performance in responding to correspondence from the public has continued to improve and there have been some particularly encouraging performances leading to a considerable narrowing in the range of performance. In particular, for the first time, all Departments and agencies have answered at least 70 per cent. of correspondence within their published target. But there is no room for complacency, which is why we have introduced targets for improvements in most Departments' Service Delivery Agreements. The performance of the main Departments and agencies is summarised in the table.
Against the other standards, the report shows that performance and standards are generally in line with public expectations. Visitors to public offices are usually seen within 10 minutes of their appointment, and most visitors without an appointment are seen within the designated standards. All Departments have at least one telephone inquiry point, and calls are usually answered promptly. Use of the internet is increasing rapidly and all the main Departments dealing with the public have websites, publicise their complaints procedure on-line and are able to accept e-mailed inquiries. The report also shows some of the innovative ways in which Departments and agencies are consulting their users and making their services more responsive to users' needs.
|Responses within target (1)||Performance on MPs' correspondence(57)|
|Department/agency||Target (working days)||200001 (%)||19992000 (%)||199899 (%)||2000 (%)|
|Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (2)||15||91||92||91||30|
|Crown Prosecution Service (3)||10||n/a||88||83||100|
|Department for Culture, Media and Sport||18||85||81||71||82|
|HM Customs and Excise||10||93||94||91||68|
|Ministry of Defence (4)||20||81||84||78||78|
|Department for Education and Employment||15||94||90||89||72|
|Employment Service (Jobcentres (5)/Chief Executive Office)||10/15||90/98||90/97||94||98|
|Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions||15||93||89||78||69|
|Driving Standards Agency||15||98||99||99||n/a|
|Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA)||15||97||97||97||99|
|Maritime and Coastguard Agency||15||96||92||93||n/a|
|Foreign and Commonwealth Office||20||83||84||87||78/70 (6)|
|Government Offices for the Regions||(58)15||93||8099||81100||n/a|
|Department of Health||20||78||48||63||50|
|Medicines Control Agency||7||100||93||||n/a|
|NHS Pensions Agency||20||99||100||||n/a|
|UK Passport Agency||10||98||81||97||100|
|HM Prison Service||20||95||94||85||75|
|Inland Revenue (7)||20||84||84||80||72|
|Lord Chancellor's Department||20||84||88||72||74|
|HM Land Registry||5||96||100||94||n/a|
|Department of Social Security||20||72||63||60||75|
|Child Support Agency||10||72||66||56||97|
|War Pensions Agency (8)||10||98||98||71||99|
|Department of Trade and Industry||15||95||96||92||60|
|Employment Tribunal Service||10||81||97||||n/a|
(57) Where available
Performance has been rounded up or down to the nearest whole figure
19 Jul 2001 : Column: 455W
Mr. Leslie: No such representations have been made directly to the Deputy Prime Minister; earlier representations about practice in conducting written consultations, especially the time allowed for responses, led to the publication in November 2000 of the Code of Practice on written consultation. The Code sets out minimum standards for consultation documents, and more generally promotes techniques of effective public involvement. It applies to all public national consultation documents issued from 1 January 2001. In response to views expressed during the passing of the Regulatory Reform Act 2001, supplementary guidance has also been issued to Departments by the Cabinet Office in respect of consultation documents under the Act.
19 Jul 2001 : Column: 456W
Mr. Oaten: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister if his responsibilities include monitoring the performance of Departments other than his own against targets set out in departmental annual reports; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Leslie: Responsibility for the Agriculture and Environment Biotechnology Commission has now passed to the Department of Trade and Industry. However, I understand that the Commission plans to publish a report
19 Jul 2001 : Column: 457W
The Deputy Prime Minister: I use the most efficient and cost-effective mode of transport wherever possible. In London this is frequently the underground. The last time I used the underground for official business was 3 April 2001.
Mr. Leslie: The provisions regulating the rights of servants of the Crown to become candidates at elections are set out in the Servants of the Crown (Parliamentary, European Parliamentary and Northern Ireland Assembly Candidature) Order 1987. This Order, as amended by the Servants of the Crown (Parliamentary, European Parliamentary and Northern Ireland Assembly Candidature) Order 1999, specifies that the servants of the Crown to whom it applies must not issue an address to electors or in any other manner publicly announce themselves or allow themselves to be publicly announced as candidates or prospective candidates for election to Parliament. There are no plans to review these provisions.
Mr. Leslie: This Government have reduced the number of quangos (or non-departmental public bodies to use the official classification) by around 10 per cent. since 1997. This means that numbers now stand at their lowest level for over 20 years. Individual NDPBs are subject to regular review and we continue to work hard to ensure that the overall number of quangos is kept to a minimum.
Mr. Leslie: All Government Departments and agencies are required to produce a regulatory impact assessment (RIA) for proposed regulations that could impact on business, charities or the voluntary sector.
An RIA may not be required in certain, strictly defined, circumstances. For example, where the proposal imposes no or negligible additional costs or savings; or where statutory fees are increased by a predetermined formula, such as the rate of inflation. Departments must be
19 Jul 2001 : Column: 458W
prepared, if challenged, to defend their decision not to produce an RIA. No central records are maintained of such cases.
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