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Volume 929: debated on Thursday 7 April 1977

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asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what proposals he has for expediting the despatch of minor matters of administration raised by hon. Members with the Department of the Environment, Northern Ireland and other Departments.

Northern Ireland Office Ministers are always concerned that hon. Members should receive a reliable and efficient service on all matters, including minor matters of administration, raised by them with Northern Ireland Departments. To this end my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland has instructed Departments that where a Member of Parliament approaches a local office of a Department about an individual constituency case, the head of that office or a senior official may reply, provided the inquiry does not raise any issue of policy, in which case a ministerial reply will be given.

Bearing in mind the excellent public representative's handbook issued by the Housing Executive, will the Government consider, in order to facilitate the full effect of the Secretary of State's arrangements, issuing to Members of Parliament and possibly to others a comparable document in respect of the other services where consultation and dealings at lower administrative levels are desirable?

I am aware of the right hon. Gentleman's correspondence with the Housing Executive and the troubles that he has had with it. His suggestion sounds a good one, and we shall certainly consider it.

When a complaint is made by an hon. Member about public works that are carried out in Northern Ireland, is the investigation of such a complaint dealt with by the official who is responsible for the works in the first place?

Obviously if a complaint is made against a particular official, I, as the Minister concerned with the Department of the Environment, would not like to think that that official was dealing with the complaint. I should always try to ensure that another official carried out the investigation.