§ Mr. Don Foster
To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many press releases were issued by his Department in the financial years(a) 1996–97, (b) 1997–98, (c) 1998–99 and (d) 1999–2000; how many have been issued in the current financial year; and what his estimate is of the total number for the current financial year. 
§ Dr. Reid
The information requested is outline as follows:
- 1 April 1996 to 31 March 1997: 1,818
- 1 April 1997 to 31 March 1998: 1,471
- 1 April 1998 to 31 March 1999: 1,605
- 1 April 1999 to 31 March 2000: 1,219
- 1 April 2000 to 31 January 2001: 231.
Prior to devolution, the NIO issued press releases for all the Northern Ireland Departments, but under devolution these Departments are run by—and their press releases issued by—the Northern Ireland Executive. This accounts for the sharp drop over the past year.781W
Power was devolved to the Executive for the first time on 2 December 1999. It was suspended as of midnight on 11 February 2000, at which point the NIO resumed responsibility for the Department and their press releases once again.
Power was then restored to the Executive on 30 May 2000. Questions relating to the number of their press releases during the periods of devolved power should be referred to the Northern Ireland Executive press office.
It is difficult to estimate the number of press releases for the whole of the financial year 2000–01 as this depends on the political and security situation. However, an analysis of the year so far suggests a figure in the region of 255.