Reports on deaths investigated by the Ombudsman

Prisons and Courts Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 2:30 pm on 29th March 2017.

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Photo of Yasmin Qureshi Yasmin Qureshi Shadow Minister (Justice) 2:30 pm, 29th March 2017

I beg to move amendment 25, in clause 8, page 10, line 36, after “recommendations” insert “within 60 days”.

This amendment requires a response from the Secretary of State within a set timeframe when a Prisons and Probation Ombudsman report on a death makes recommendations.

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

Amendment 26, in clause 8, page 10, line 38, at end insert—

“(c) the response must set out the actions that the Secretary of State has taken, or proposes to take, in response to the recommendations described in the report.”

This amendment requires the response from the Secretary of State to set out actions.

Amendment 27, in clause 10, page 12, line 16, after “recommendations” insert “within 60 days”.

This amendment requires a response from the Secretary of State within a set timeframe when a Prisons and Probation Ombudsman report on a complaint makes recommendations.

Amendment 28, in clause 10, page 12, line 16, at end insert—

‘(5A) The response in subsection (5) must set out the actions that the Secretary of State has taken, or proposes to take, in response to the recommendations described in the report.”

This amendment is consequential on amendment 27. It requires the response from the Secretary of State to set out actions.

Photo of Yasmin Qureshi Yasmin Qureshi Shadow Minister (Justice)

Amendment 25 would require the Secretary of State to respond within a set timeframe—we think 60 days is reasonable—after a prisons and probation ombudsman report on a death makes recommendations. Amendment 26 is also designed to elicit a fast response from the Secretary of State. Just as with Her Majesty’s inspectorate, the Secretary of State should be required to set out how he or she will respond to the recommendation of the ombudsman.

Amendment 27 is similar, requiring a response from the Secretary of State within a set timeframe when the prison and probation ombudsman reports on a complaint and makes a recommendation. We think that 60 days is a reasonable time for the Secretary of State to respond to that complaint. Amendment 28 is sequential to amendment 27 and requires a response from the Secretary of State to set out actions, because in reality there is no point in having a report if there is no response to set out actions that the Secretary of State will take. We believe that a response should be statutorily encompassed in the legislation and that it should be done within the relevant statutory framework.

Photo of Sam Gyimah Sam Gyimah The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice

These amendments concern the Secretary of State’s responses to the ombudsman’s reports. Clauses 8 and 10 currently provide that a response must be provided within a period specified by the ombudsman. Currently, the ombudsman’s terms of reference establish a 28-day time limit for responses to the ombudsman’s recommendations to set out whether or not a recommendation has been accepted. In practice, the majority of the ombudsman’s recommendations are accepted and responses provided to this effect. We consider it preferable to retain flexibility for the ombudsman to set the time limit for responding by not providing a statutory timeframe for responses.

Finally, amendments 26 and 28 would require that responses to ombudsman reports by the Secretary of State must set out actions that have been or will be taken to address concerns. We consider this already covered by clauses 8(5) and 10(5), which require that the Secretary of State must provide a response to recommendations made by the ombudsman. It will be clear from such a response what actions are planned. I hope that hon. Members will agree that provisions are already in place for the ombudsman to require a response within a timescale that he thinks appropriate and for the Secretary of State to respond on actions to be taken. I therefore suggest that the amendment be withdrawn.

Photo of Yasmin Qureshi Yasmin Qureshi Shadow Minister (Justice)

I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 8 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 9