§ Mr. Hancock
To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what account was taken of the Rural Plan in making decisions about the relocation of(a) Jobcentre Plus and (b) Pension Service offices. 
§ Mr. Browne
Jobcentre Plus and The Pension Service are modernising the services we provide to our customers. Increased accessibility is one of our key objectives in modernising welfare delivery. Modernisation is helping us to deliver the commitment made in the Rural White paper to ensure access to 'high quality public services—services often delivered in new ways, and through new outlets'. We are committed to ensuring that everyone is able to access our services, whether they live in urban or rural areas. We are providing improved customer access through telephone centres, the Internet and new, dedicated caller offices.
Decisions about where services are delivered by the Department are based upon consultation with our partners such as local authorities and Regional Development Agencies, and reflect local circumstances and most importantly, the needs of the local community. The consideration of rural issues is an integral part of the consultation process. The Rural Proofing checklist produced by the Countryside Agency forms part of the initial planning process and, where appropriate, the Countryside Agency itself is consulted as a stakeholder.
DWP produce an internal annual Rural Proofing Report for the Countryside Agency; this includes examples of how the Department has addressed service delivery issues in rural areas. DWP also regularly discusses policy development and implementation with DEFRA (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) and the Countryside Agency. For example, DWP provided detailed information about development and delivery of our services for last year's rural-proofing report by the Countryside Agency. A copy of the Countryside Agency's Rural Proofing Report for 2002–3 can be found in the Library.