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Government Performance

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. [6177]

Mr. Leslie: I have arranged for a report on the performance of the main Departments and agencies to be placed in the Libraries of the House.

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.

Comparison with performance in 1998–99 and MPs' correspondence

Responses within target (1) Performance on MPs' correspondence(57)
Department/agency Target (working days)2000–01 (%)1999–2000 (%)1998–99 (%)2000 (%)
Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (2)1591929130
Cabinet Office15969910085
Crown Prosecution Service (3)10n/a8883100
Department for Culture, Media and Sport1885817182
HM Customs and Excise1093949168
Ministry of Defence (4)2081847878
Department for Education and Employment 1594908972
Employment Service (Jobcentres (5)/Chief Executive Office)10/1590/9890/979498
Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions1593897869
Driving Standards Agency15989999n/a
Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA)1597979799
Highways Agency1587838378
Maritime and Coastguard Agency15969293n/a
Vehicle Inspectorate159910093n/a
Foreign and Commonwealth Office2083848778/70 (6)
Government Offices for the Regions(58)159380–9981–100n/a
Department of Health2078486350
Medicines Control Agency710093n/a
NHS Pensions Agency2099100n/a
Home Office2072642341
UK Passport Agency10988197100
HM Prison Service2095948575
Inland Revenue (7)2084848072
Intervention Board10939279n/a
Lord Chancellor's Department2084887274
Court Service2087939766
HM Land Registry59610094n/a
Department of Social Security2072636075
Benefits Agency10877881–8845
Child Support Agency 1072665697
War Pensions Agency (8)1098987199
Department of Trade and Industry1595969260
Companies House109998100
Employment Tribunal Service108197n/a
Patent Office510010099
Insolvency Service15989787
Radiocommunications Agency159998n/1
HM Treasury15743660

(57) Where available

(58) Max.


Performance has been rounded up or down to the nearest whole figure

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Government Consultations

Mrs. Curtis-Thomas: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what representations he has received concerning the variations between the consultation processes undertaken by Government Departments. [5369]

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.

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Departmental Targets

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. [2676]

Mr. Leslie: The responsibilities of the new Delivery Unit were set out in my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister's answer of 3 July 2001, Official Report, column 95W.

Agriculture and Environment Biotechnology


Joan Ruddock: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister when the first report of the Agriculture and Environment Biotechnology Commission will be published. [4468]

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

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later this year on its case study of decision making on the Farm Scale Evaluations of genetically modified herbicide tolerant crops.

Ministerial Travel

Bob Russell: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister when he last travelled on the London Underground in the course of his official duties. [3672]

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.

Civil Service (Parliamentary Candidates)

Brian Cotter: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister if he will review the restrictions on those employed in the civil service to permit them to stand as parliamentary candidates. [5873]

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.

Non-departmental Public Bodies

Mr. Francois: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what plans his Department has to reduce the number of Government NDPBs. [5519]

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.

Regulatory Impact Assessments

Mrs. Curtis-Thomas: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister which Government Departments have failed to produce a regulatory impact assessment for each paper that requires an RIA. [5368]

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

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prepared, if challenged, to defend their decision not to produce an RIA. No central records are maintained of such cases.

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