Published: 11/4/2002, Volume II2, No. 5800 Page 10

Health ministers' private offices are costing nearly£3m a year to run, taking up 1 per cent of the£300m administration bill at the Department of Health.

Both figures have risen over the past four years, with departmental administration costs jumping by slightly over 20 per cent, from£249m to£300m, while ministerial office-running costs have soared by almost 60 per cent, from£1,849,000 to£2,947,000 between 1997-98 and 2000-01.

The figures, revealed by junior health minister Hazel Blears in a parliamentary written answer, show that staffing accounts for the bulk of office-running costs for health secretary Alan Milburn and his five-strong ministerial team.

But a DoH spokesperson confirmed that these staff did not include special advisors - notorious following the row over Jo Moore at the Department of Transport, Local Government and the Regions.

Staffing levels had risen to cope with 'an increase in the number of parliamentary questions and ministerial correspondence' and the addition of an extra minister in 1999, she said.