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Government Departments: Telephone Services

Volume 491: debated on Wednesday 22 April 2009

To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster what information his Department holds on the number of Government departments and agencies which require people to dial a premium rate number to contact them; what plans the Government has to replace such use of 0845 numbers with numbers that charge a local or national rate; and if he will make a statement. (268458)

The Cabinet Office, through the Contact Council, is currently conducting a survey of the different number types, such as 0845, 0870 or 0800, used by central Government Departments and agencies. Each Department is currently responsible for their own numbering strategy, and it is their responsibility to ensure that all citizens—whatever their incomes—can afford to make contact. The council intends to use the results of its numbering survey to steer a future cross-government approach to the use of phone numbers. Consideration of the use of 0845 numbers, which are defined by Ofcom as “special service basic rate numbers” will form part of this methodology. As far as the Contact Council is currently aware, no central government department operates a premium rate number—defined by Ofcom as a number beginning either ‘090’ or ‘091’—and if they do this will be identified during the aforementioned numbering survey.