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Volume 175: debated on Monday 25 June 1990

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To ask the Prime Minister what is her policy with respect to the elapse of time before a letter sent by an hon. Member to the Minister for Local Government and Inner Cities should receive a reply; and what action will be taken to staff Department of the Environment Ministers' offices adequately to permit prompt replies to hon. Members' letters.

It is the aim of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment that his Department should reply to letters within three to four weeks of receipt. However, the volume of correspondence about the new local government finance system has been very large and I regret that it has taken substantially longer to reply in many cases. A special unit, now comprising 20 staff, has been established to deal with this correspondence and as a result the Department has replied to 58,000 of the 65,000 letters on this subject received from hon. Members and members of the public so far this year. In general, letters from hon. Members on local government finance are being answered at present within about seven weeks and many are being dealt with more quickly than that; with current staffing the aim is to reduce the period significantly as soon as possible.