§ Mr. Evans
To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what the average response time was for responding to departmental correspondence; what percentage of letters took longer than one month for a response; and what percentage took longer than three months for a response in each of the last five years. 
§ Mr. Morley
Our Minister's correspondence database does not record details of response times and percentages of response times for the last five years. We can only provide this information for letters answered for the period since the formation of DEFRA on 8 June 2001 to 31 March 2002.
The DEFRA service target is 15 working days.
Letters answered from 8 June 2001 to 31 March 2002Mean response time was 48.14 working daysPercentage of letters that took longer than one month for a response: 64.58Percentage of letters that took longer than three months for a response: 24.18.
The Department suffered severe disruption last year due to allocating top priority to defeating the foot and mouth epidemic. Furthermore the sheer volume of correspondence received following the creation of DEFRA had a major impact on the Department's performance, resulting in a large backlog of letters. We have devoted more resources to clearing the backlog and we are making progress in improving response times.