To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what is the basis for the forecast in part 3 of the report of the private office directorate in his departmental report MINIS 14, that in 1992–93 it is expected ministerial correspondence will reduce from 35,000 to 30,000; and what assessment he has made of the reasons for his Department's failure to meet its target to reply to 65 per cent. of letters within three weeks of receipt.
The forecast fall in correspondence was for the calendar year 1992 in comparison with 1991 and was expected mainly as a result of the calling of a general election, which normally significantly reduces the period during which hon. Members forward correspondence to departmental Ministers. The final correspondence total for 1992 was just over 29,500.The target of 65 per cent. reply within three weeks was an ambitious one as it represented a 20 per cent. improvement on 1991. In the event some 56 per cent. of my Department's Ministers' correspondence with hon. Members in 1992 was answered within three weeks of receipt. This represents an improvement of 4 per cent. over 1991, and I remain determined to continue progress towards the target of 65 per cent. in future years.