§ Mr. Lidington
To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what has been the average rate of staff sickness in terms of working days per person in the period since 1 April. 
§ Mr. Straw
The latest available information shows that the average number of working days lost owing to sickness absence between 1 April and 31 October is 3.37 working days in the Home Department and its agencies (excluding the Prison Service); and 7.89 days in the Prison Service.
This equates to an annual rate of 7.58 working days in the Home Department and its agencies (excluding the Prison Service); and 13.53 days in the Prison Service.
Because of the way the sickness absence data are collated some of the more recent absences may not have reached the centralised recording system as yet.
The Home Department and its agencies have introduced new guidelines, policies and procedures with a view to reducing sickness absence in the Department.
The Department's Service Delivery Targets for April 2001 to March 2004, which include a target for reducing sickness absence, were published on Friday, 3 November, and are available on the Home Office website 305W www.homeoffice.gov.uk/pfd/sda2000.htm. The targets to reduce sickness absence, and sustain this improvement thereafter, are:in the Home Office and its agencies (excluding the Prison Service) to annual average of 6.9 days per member of staff by the end of March 2003; andin the Prison Service to an annual average of 9.0 days per member of staff by 2004.