§ Mr. Maclean
To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment what has been the cost of running helplines for the New Deal; how many staff have been employed in manning the helplines; and how many calls have been received since their inception. 
§ Mr. Andrew Smith
[holding answer 19 March 1999]: The total cost of providing the New Deal Information Line up to the end of February 1999 is £609,297.31. This has included significant numbers of calls for detailed and extensive information which result in long and complex calls.
It has recorded 42,133 responses since it opened in October 1997. Seventy six per cent. of these responses have been from organisations requesting information or wanting to be involved in New Deal. The latter are diverted to the appropriate Employment Service regional office.
The management and provision of the line is handled by a specialist outside company. The number of staff employed by them and dedicated to answering New Deal calls is currently four, but there is also a pool of 50 to 60 operators trained to take New Deal calls during peak periods.