I am afraid that I cannot accept the amendment, as it would mean that the ombudsman would not be able to enforce requests for information or documents from complainants. That would be unacceptable because it could result in unequal treatment of the two parties in a case under the scheme. As it would mean that the ombudsman would be unable to follow up requirements for information from complainants, it could result in people wasting the ombudsman’s time. It might be of some reassurance to the hon. Gentleman that I expect the power to be used rarely, if at all. It is nevertheless important for it to be included in the Bill, to act as a deterrent and so that, in the interests of fairness, both parties are treated equally.
I am half-surprised that the Minister did not buy the amendment. She understands the argument. That she says that the measure will be rarely used is a consolation, but not a complete protection, which she also understands.
There is a difference between requiring disclosure and revelation of documents from organisations and requiring the same from the individual citizen. There is a general wish to protect the privacy of citizens’ information, which is why the amendment was tabled. That is the right starting point. We will consider the Minister’s concerns, but this is the sort of issue of principle on which we would want to be absolutely certain that we have guaranteed enough protection for the individual. We will return to it later if necessary. On that basis, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.