§ Mr. Wigley
To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security when the Benefits Agency replied to the letter of the hon. Member for Caernarfon, of 18 August 1992, addressed to him; what assessment he makes of the speed with which such letters are answered; and if he now makes it his practice to answer letters from hon. Members directly rather than referring them to the Benefits Agency.
§ Miss Widdecombe
The hon. Member wrote two letters on 18 August 1992 about the claims to disability living allowance—DLA—of his constituents. The chief executive384W of the Benefits Agency, Mr. Bichard, replied to one on 9 December 1992 and the other on 18 December 1992. The claims in both cases had been resolved in September 1992. While apologising for the delays in replying, Mr. Bichard explained that this was because of the high level of correspondence on DLA in recent months.
Ministers have agreed with Mr. Bichard an average response rate of 20 working days from receipt of Members' letters and the agency has taken steps to achieve this target as soon as possible. Ministers will continue to refer Members' letters on social security benefits relating to operational matters to the relevant chief executive to reply under the arrangements which apply to all executive agencies.