§ Mr. Webb
To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security how frequently senior civil servants in national departments of social security in English-speaking countries meet together in conference; when and where the last three such meetings were held; which of his officials attended those meetings; and at what cost to102W public funds; what subjects were discussed; and if he will place a copy of the minutes of those meetings in the Library. 
§ Angela Eagle
[holding answer 11 December 2000]: Meetings between the heads of social security departments in the UK, New Zealand, Canada, Australia, the United States of America and Ireland take place every 18 months. The last three meetings took place in the UK (September 2000), New Zealand (March 1999) and Ireland (September 1997).
The Department's Permanent Secretary generally attends the meetings outside the UK, together with two senior officials who hold responsibility for the areas of work to be discussed. The UK hosted this year's meeting and additional officials attended relevant discussions. The subjects discussed vary but are generally wide-ranging.
The cost of hosting the UK meeting was just under £60,000, which is broadly in line with the costs incurred by other countries for these meetings.
Due to the informal nature of the meetings, and to promote frankness and candour during discussions, formal minutes are not published. This falls within Exception 2 of the Code of Practice of Access to Government Information.