HC Deb 19 September 2002 vol 390 cc412-3W
Mr. Andrew Turner

To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) whether it is his policy to ensure that documents referred to in parliamentary answers are available via his Department's website; [72271]

(2) for how long he retains documents referred to in parliamentary answers on his Department's website. [72267]

Mr. Lammy

The Department aims to be as helpful as possible in responding to hon. Members' Questions. Where it is helpful to refer hon. Members to other documents as part of the substantive reply, this may be done by making hard copies of documents available in the Library, or by reference to material available on the Department's website.

The majority of departmental publications are made available on the website through the Publications Library (POINT). The Department current policy is to retain all published online material on our website. This will be reviewed in the context of The Office of the e-Envoy's guidance on archiving websites when available.

The Department complies with minimum requirements set out in the Office of the e-Envoy's "Guidelines for UK Government Websites".

Mr. Allen

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what the average time taken by his Department to answer questions has been this Session; and if he will make a statement. [70048]

Mr. Lammy

The information requested can only be provided at a disproportionate cost. This is because the Department's Parliamentary database does not readily provide this information, which could only be obtained therefore by a manual count of the records. The Department has received over 10,000 written questions this Session so far. Even to perform the calculations on a reasonable sample would incur a disproportionate cost. A new database is being developed for the next session that should be able to provide this kind of management information on a routine basis.

The Department fully recognises the need to ensure that hon. Members receive prompt, timely and helpful replies to their questions. Ministers make every effort to ensure that this important instrument of accountability is given the priority that it needs and deserves. Where there are regrettable delays in answering questions this stems from a proper desire to maintain high standards of accuracy and helpfulness in replies. We will, however, continue to strive to make further progress with the equally important yardstick of timeliness.