§ Barbara Follett
To ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office what was the overall level of sickness absence in the Civil Service in 1998. 
§ Marjorie Mowlam
The report 'Analysis of Sickness Absence in the Civil Service 1998' prepared for my Department by BMI Health Services Ltd. shows that when the same methodology as in previous years was applied the average level of sickness absence was 9.8 days per staff year. This compares with a figure of 10.1 days for 1997. Calculated on the basis of absence per person, the figure for the Civil Service was 8.4 days. The report contains a comprehensive analysis of the 1998 figures.
In tandem with the preparation of that report, Departments and agencies have separately been undertaking audits of their monitoring systems as recommended in the July 1998 report 'Managing Attendance in the Public Sector'. In some cases these audits have revealed an element of under recording. The BMI report also contains figures reworked to reflect the audit findings, and these show that the average figure 434W for sickness absence in 1998 was 10.3 days per staff year. These revised figures came too late and in insufficient detail for them to be taken into account in the report's data analysis.
My Department is continuing to work with other Departments and agencies as they take forward their plans to reduce sickness absence. Overall the Civil Service has been targeted to reduce sickness absence by 20 per cent. for 2001 and 30 per cent. for 2003 against the 1998 baseline.
I have placed copies of the BMI report in the Libraries of the House.