§ Lord Jopling
asked Her Majesty's Government:
Further to the Written Answer by the Baroness Scotland of Asthal on 16 October (WA 136) which stated "I do not know whether it will prove practicable to obtain this information, but we will look into the matter and I will write to the noble Lord as soon as possible", why it took in excess of 13 weeks to give this answer to the Lord Avebury when the standard time is two weeks; and what admonitions have been given to departments for this delay beyond the previous assertions that departments have been reminded of the need for prompt replies. [HL5012]
§ Baroness Scotland of Asthal
The delay to the Question tabled by Lord Avebury was caused by prolonged inconclusive debate between officials about whether the lead in dealing with the question should be taken by the Home Office, because of its responsibility for policy on criminal offences, or on faith policy, or by the Department for Constitutional Affairs, because of its responsibility for court statistics and records. Unfortunately, the mechanisms in place in the two departments which in the overwhelming majority of cases ensure that such debates are resolved quickly failed on this occasion. The staff concerned have been reminded that where agreement cannot be reached at desk officer level, questions must be referred to a sufficiently senior level in a timely fashion to ensure a resolution within the deadline. I offer an unreserved apology to the noble Lord and to the Lord Avebury for the delay which occurred on this occasion.