§ 23. Mr. Bayley
To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security if he will make a statement on the system of handling answers to parliamentary questions referred to the chief executive of the Benefits Agency.
§ Mr. Burt
When Members ask written parliamentary questions which concern day-to-day operational matters delegated to the Benefits Agency, my right hon. Friend and his Ministers will normally arrange for the chief executive to write to the Member, and will reply to that effect. The aim is to provide as full and helpful a response as possible on a timescale similar to that for a ministerial response to a parliamentary question. As the Lord President of the Council announced on 20 OctoberOfficial Report, column 288 all such letters from chief executives arising from written questions, except for those concerning personal or confidential matters, are now printed in the Official Report. My right hon. Friend remains fully accountable to Parliament for the work of the Department of Social Security, including its executive agencies and we will continue to answer all oral questions.100W
§ 25. Mr. Willetts
To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what changes there have been in the service provided to claimants since the Benefits Agency came into operation in 1991.
§ Mr. Burt
Overall the Benefits Agency is providing a more efficient service to the public. Performance in most key service delivery areas has improved significantly since 1991. Significant progress has been made towards making the service more accessible, accountable and responsible to customer needs and expectations. The aims in the citizens charter have been expanded and are clearly laid out in the agency's own customer charter. In consultation with their customer's local units are setting up and publicising their own customer service standards.