Ombudsman Review

Oral Answers to Questions — Cabinet Office – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 17th January 2001.

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Photo of Tony Wright Tony Wright Labour, Cannock Chase 12:00 am, 17th January 2001

When she expects to introduce legislation to implement the recommendations of the ombudsman review. [144200]

Photo of Graham Stringer Graham Stringer Parliamentary Secretary (Cabinet Office)

This major review has elicited 250 responses. The Government are looking in great detail at these responses and the evaluation of them will be announced before Easter.

Photo of Tony Wright Tony Wright Labour, Cannock Chase

I am grateful for that answer. My hon. Friend will know that we had the ombudsman review because ombudsmen came to the Government and said, "Our work is being impeded, particularly where the boundaries cross health and social services, for example, because we cannot run a seamless, integrated service." The Government are to be congratulated on initiating the review, but will they now give a commitment to bringing forward early legislation to implement it?

Photo of Graham Stringer Graham Stringer Parliamentary Secretary (Cabinet Office)

As my hon. Friend knows, I cannot pre-empt decisions on the next legislative programme. I agree that an extremely important review is taking place. The ombudsmen told us that they were not working as efficiently and effectively as they could. We accepted that, and that is why the review is taking place.

On the other side of the equation are those who use the ombudsman service. We must ensure that the service is accessible, and we shall do that by taking into account many of the comments that have been made. It is worth bringing it to the House's attention that some of those comments are asking for further reviews in areas that are currently considered out of bounds by the ombudsmen. It is part of our modernisation programme to get the ombudsman service right, and it is important that we do so, rather than hurrying the process.

Photo of Mr Paul Tyler Mr Paul Tyler Liberal Democrat, North Cornwall

I shall raise an issue that relates both to the Cabinet Office's responsibility for the future of the ombudsmen and to the co-ordination of rural policy. Is the Minister aware that there is real resentment and frustration among farmers in England and Wales at the fact that there is no effective external and independent arbiter of maladministration and mismanagement of many issues within the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, while there is one in Scotland? How soon will the Minister's proposals for introducing a more effective tribunal be available for us to see? Will they cover issues other than the integrated administration and control system concerns?

Photo of Graham Stringer Graham Stringer Parliamentary Secretary (Cabinet Office)

The hon. Gentleman is extending the review to areas that are not covered by the question. It is clear that people in rural areas as well as in urban areas benefit from the service of the ombudsmen. Improvements in the efficiency and effectiveness of that service will help people in rural areas.