Committee calls for Ombudsman reforms

09 December 2009

The Public Administration Committee today publishes a report calling for two key reforms to the relationship between the House of Commons and the Parliamentary and Health Services Ombudsman.

First, the Committee calls again for the long overdue abolition of what is known as the MP filter, so that citizens can have direct access to the Ombudsman.

Under the current process, members of the public are only able to have their cases considered by the Ombudsman if their complaint is taken up by an MP.

Members of the Committee will today table an amendment to the Constitutional Reform and Governance Bill, currently being considered by the House of Commons, to allow direct access to the Ombudsman.

Second, the Committee recommends that there should be an automatic debate in the House of Commons whenever the Ombudsman finds that the Government has failed to remedy injustice caused by maladministration.

The Chairman of the Committee, Dr Tony Wright MP, said:

"The abolition of the MP filter is long overdue. The Ombudsman would like it removed, a majority of MPs would like it removed and even the Government’s own review found that it should be removed.

"When Parliament is dissolved ahead of the General Election next year there will be a period of six weeks when, because there are no MPs, members of the public will be unable to complain to the Ombudsman. This is absurd and unfair.

"It is equally absurd that Parliament should have to rely on the Government to provide time to debate reports from its own Ombudsman, especially when, as in the case of Equitable Life, those reports are very critical of the Government.

"In these kinds of cases, Parliament needs to be seen to be acting independently of Government. As it is, people understandably find it hard to distinguish between the two."

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