§ Mr. Flynn
To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster in what circumstances questions by hon. Members seeking statistical information relating to services or benefits for which a next steps agency is responsible are(a) answered by Ministers and (b) referred to the agency's chief executive; and what assessment he has made of the consistency in the practice followed.
§ Mr. Waldegrave
The Government's policy on answering questions on agency matters was most recently668W set out in the Government's reply to the Treasury and Civil Service Committee's 1991 report on the next steps initiative (Cm 1761), which said:In normal circumstances the source of the reply should follow the allocation of responsibilities as between the Secretary of State and the Chief Executive in the Agency's framework document; but in all cases the decision on who will respond rests with the Minister. The Government believes this is right and in accordance with important wider considerations about Ministerial accountability to Parliament. In time, as the system beds down, the Government expects that the cases which have given rise to concern will become fewer with any variations in practice kept to a minimum. The Governmennt will continue to keep the situation under review.
My Office has from time to time reminded Ministers of this policy. I have placed a copy of the current guidance in the Library.