This House of Commons Library Briefing Paper looks at the Draft Public Service Ombudsman Bill, published by the Cabinet Office on 5 December 2016, which would create a Public Service Ombudsman for UK reserved matters and public services delivered solely in England.Jump to full report >>
On 5 December 2016 the Government published a draft Public Service Ombudsman Bill.
The Bill would create a Public Service Ombudsman (PSO) for UK reserved matters and public services in England.
An ombudsman is a person appointed to receive complaints from an aggrieved person against a public authority (although ombudsmen also exist for the private sector). They usually have the power to investigate, to recommend corrective action, and to issue a report. According to the Ombudsman Association, ombudsmen offer their services “free of charge, and are thus accessible to individuals who could not afford to pursue their complaints through the courts
In the UK, the focus of ombudsmen in the public sector concerns complaints of maladministration by public bodies.
The term ‘maladministration’ is not defined in the legislation which established the various public services ombudsmen in the UK. However, it can be broadly defined as the public body not having acted properly or fairly, or having given a poor service and not put things right.
The draft Bill would:
Other public service ombudsman – in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland – are unaffected by the draft Bill, although it is envisaged that the new PSO will work with these existing ombudsmen.
The provisions in the draft Bill are unlikely to be controversial.
Most of the criticism to date has focused on what has not been included. In particular:
Draft Bills are published to enable consultation and pre-legislative scrutiny. Most draft Bills are examined either by a select committee in the House of Commons or in the House of Lords, or by a joint committee of both Houses.
After consultation and pre-legislative scrutiny has taken place, the Bill may be introduced formally in the House of Commons or House of Lords.
Commons Briefing papers CBP-7864
Author: Michael Everett