§ Mr. Peter Ainsworth
To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many letters from hon. Members are awaiting a response from her Department; and how many responses are due to2W letters dated more than (a) two weeks, (b) one month, (c) two months, (d) three months and (e) more than three months ago. 
§ Mr. Laws
To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what her most recent estimate is of how many letters have yet to be sent a substantive response by her Department that were received(a) under four weeks ago, (b) between four to six weeks ago, (c) between six weeks and two months ago and (d) over two months ago; and if she will make a statement. 
§ Margaret Beckett
[holding answers 13 March and 22 April 2002]: The total number of letters from hon. and right hon. Members awaiting a response as at 15 May 2002 stood at 2,125. Of these, 1,699 responses are due to letters dated more than two calendar weeks, 1,295 to letters dated more than one calendar month, 886 to letters dated more than two calendar months and 612 to letters dated more than three calendar months.
On average, DEFRA receives around 1,160 letters from hon. and right hon. Members each month. The Department's service target is 15 working days from date of receipt. Performance was severely affected last year by the impact of foot and mouth disease, and by IT and other convergence issues following the creation of DEFRA. However, the median response time for all letters is now 15 working days, with 53 per cent. of letters meeting the target. Measures are in place to secure further improvements in the weeks ahead.