§ Mr. Ian Bruce
To ask the Secretary of State for Health how long on average it takes his Department to answer letters from hon. Members; what target date his Department sets; what percentage receive replies within the target date; and what assessment he has made of how long it takes to deliver a letter after it has been typed. 
§ Ms Jowell
[holding answer 2 February 1998]: The Department aims to reply to Ministerial correspondence within 20 working days of receipt; 76 per cent. of letters received replies within that target during 1997; and the average time taken for reply was 19 working days. Replies are posted within one working day of signing by a Minister.