HC Deb 16 July 1997 vol 298 cc210-1W
Mr. Rooney

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment what advice is given to Employment Service staff on giving information on constituency cases to hon. Members(a) over the telephone and (b) in writing; when this was last revised; and to what grade of staff it is disseminated. [8888]

Mr. Alan Howarth

[holding answer 15 July 1997]: The Department takes a positive and purposeful view on this matter. Responsibility for the specifics and local arrangements has been delegated to the Employment Service agency under its Chief Executive. I have asked him to arrange for a reply to be given.

Letter from Leigh Lewis to Mr. Terry Rooney, dated July 1997: The Secretary of State has asked me to reply to your question about advice given to Employment Service (ES) staff on giving information on constituency cases to Honourable Members. This is something that falls within the responsibilities delegated to me as Chief Executive of the Agency. The Employment Service sets clear standards for handling telephone and written correspondence for all enquiries. The guidance is contained within two ES guides, the ES Corporate Style and ES Disclosure Guides, and in a circular on Open Government. The guidance makes clear that every effort should be made to be as helpful as possible in dealing with such enquiries. The ES Disclosure Guide refers explicitly to requests from Members of Parliament in outlining the parameters within which Business Managers can comply within the terms of the Data Protection Act 1984. The other guidance does not explicitly refer to MPs, but I would expect all ES staff to meet these standards in contacts with Members of Parliament and others. You asked about information on when this guidance was updated. The ES Corporate Style Guide was updated in March 1996, the ES Disclosure Guide in 1992 and the ES Circular on Open Government in 1994. This guidance is available to everyone working in the ES. More generally we encourage all Honourable Members to contact their local Jobcentre Business Manager or District Manager, who are best placed to provide a quick and informed reply on local constituency matters, whenever they need to do so. I hope this is helpful.