HC Deb 23 December 1976 vol 923 c265W
22. Sir John Hall

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what steps he has taken to reduce the delay in replying to letters addressed to his Department by hon. Members.

Mr. Merlyn Rees

The number of letters from hon. Members is steadily increasing. During the three months ending on 30th November, the number was 55 per cent. higher than during the same period last year. At the same time the number of Home Office staff has declined in accordance with Government policy and the need for the most stringent economy.

A special review has been undertaken of the procedure for dealing with Members' correspondence and a small transfer of secretariat staff is consequently to be made. Staff throughout the Department have always recognised the need to deal with such correspondence as quickly as possible, and the new procedures now to be introduced should eliminate the most serious delays and should provide some acceleration for the majority of replies. But since most of the letters from Members—of which there have been more than 20,000 this year—refer to individual cases, about which inquiries have to be made outside the Home Office, the scope for improvement is inevitably limited.

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