§ Gregory Barker
To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what recent assessment she has made of whether the sickness absence reduction target for 2002–03 in her Department will be met. 
§ Alun Michael
Our target is based on the calendar year rather than the financial year. The Department is committed to the effective management of sickness absence, and to working towards its Service Delivery Agreement target of an average of 6.9 days per year, by 31 December 2003.
Looking back to before the creation of Defra, available data show a reduction from 9.8 days in 1999 to nine days in 2000 and 7.4 days in 2001. The data for 2001 are not broken down to take into account the creation of Defra in June of that year. Figures for sickness absence in 2002 will be available, via the Cabinet Office, in July 2003.