Inquiries into the Parliamentary Health Services Ombudsman

The request was successful.

Dear Public Administration Select Committee (PASC)

With regard to your recent request for members of the public to submit responses to a questionnaire regarding the above,
Who collates this information?
What criteria is used in the selection of these submissions?
If an outside source/agency is used to collate and collect this information, please provide me with the name of this agency?
How much was the agency paid to collect and collate this information?
As the Ombudsman operates and internal review system of its own case handling, please provide me with any notes or minutes of meetings where the Committee have discussed this matter.
Please provide me with any notes or minutes of meetings where the Committee have had discussion in relation to the amount of investigations the Ombudsman undertakes each year and the publics deep dissatisfaction with this.
Please provide me with any notes or minutes of meetings relating to the Committees discussions or meetings regarding the Ombudsman role in NHS investigations that were refused by her but have now become public knowledge, such as the Morecombe Bay hospital trust which the PHSO failed to address?
How many past inquiries into complaint handling have the Committee requested?
What will the PASC do with the information received from this current inquiry?
AS the PASC is aware of how unhappy people are with the PHSO and their ineffectiveness in handling the publics complaints, as written by them in their inquiry request, please provide me with any letters sent to the Ombudsman by the Committee regarding its criteria for undertaking investigations, and any concerns the Committee have regarding the publics dissatisfaction.

Yours faithfully,

CA Purkis

FOICOMMONS, House of Commons

Dear CA Purkis

Thank you for your request for information dated 18th June 2013, received by us on the same date.

We will endeavour to respond to your request promptly but in any case within 20 working days i.e. on or before 16th July 2013.

If you have any queries about your request, please use the request number quoted in the subject line of this email.

Yours sincerely

Sarah Price
IRIS Support Officer

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FOICOMMONS, House of Commons

Dear CA Purkis,
 
 
Freedom of Information Request F13-309
 
Thank you for your request for information as copied below.   
 
You asked a number of questions about the Public Administration Select
Committee (PASC) and we have sought to answer your questions below.
 

 1. With regard to your recent request for members of the public to submit
responses to a questionnaire regarding the above, who collates this
information?

and

 2. What criteria is used in the selection of these submissions?

 
The PASC’s two inquiries into complaints handling are subject to the same
processes as all committee inquiries, namely:
The Committee invites submissions based on a series of questions (or
“terms of reference”) published alongside the call for evidence. Once
submissions are received it is for the Committee to determine whether or
not to accept the submissions as evidence or not. The Committee has
complete discretion in this matter.
Committee staff process the submissions on behalf of the Committee but do
not make the final decision on whether or not to accept a document as
evidence. In instances where it is possible that the Committee may decide
not to accept a submission as evidence, Committee staff may seek to help
the submitter get their submission into a form which is more likely to be
acceptable to the Committee. Guidance on the submission of evidence, and
on the parliamentary privilege considerations which apply, is available
here:
[1]http://www.parliament.uk/get-involved/ha...
 

 3. If an outside source/agency is used to collate and collect this
information, please provide me with the name of this agency?

and

 4. How much was the agency paid to collect and collate this information

 
No outside agency is employed to conduct this work.
 

 5. As the Ombudsman operates and internal review system of its own case
handling, please provide me with any notes or  minutes of meetings
where the Committee have discussed this matter.

and

 6. Please provide me with any notes or minutes of meetings where the
Committee have had discussion in relation to the amount of
investigations the Ombudsman undertakes each year and the public’s
deep dissatisfaction with this.

and

 7. Please provide me with any notes or minutes of meetings relating to
the Committees discussions or meetings regarding the Ombudsman role in
NHS investigations that were refused by her but have now become public
knowledge, such as the Morecombe Bay hospital trust which the PHSO
failed to address?

 
Meetings of the Committee are proceedings in Parliament, to which
parliamentary privilege applies. Where oral evidence is taken before the
Committee, a transcript is published. Oral evidence is hardly ever taken
in private: but even when an evidence session is held in private, it is
normal for a transcript to be published, subject to any necessary
deletions of any sensitive material. The Formal Minutes of the Committee,
which are published at [2]www.parliament.uk/pasc, cover all the
Committee’s meetings, including those when oral evidence is not taken.
 
The information you requested concerning notes or minutes of meetings of,
or relating to, the Committee’s discussions is subject to Parliamentary
privilege. This information is exempt under section 34(1) of the Freedom
of Information Act (exemption required for the purposes of avoiding an
infringement of the privileges of either House). The exemption applies in
order to avoid an infringement of the privileges of the House of Commons,
which include the right of its Committees to decide whether, how and when
to publish information about their proceedings. This is an absolute
exemption and the public interest test does not apply. I am afraid I must
therefore in accordance with section 34 (Parliamentary privilege) of the
Freedom of Information Act 2000 decline to confirm or deny under section
1(1) (a) of the Act that the House of Commons holds any notes or minutes
of meetings—

* where the Committee has discussed the Ombudsman’s internal review
system of her own case-handling;
* where the Committee has had discussions in relation to the amount of
investigations which the Ombudsman undertakes each year, and the
public’s level of satisfaction with that amount; or
* relating to the Committee’s discussions or meetings regarding the
Ombudsman’s role in NHS investigations, such as the Morecombe Bay
University Hospitals Trust.

 

 8. How many past inquiries into complaint handling have the Committee
requested?

and

 9. What will the PASC do with the information received from this current
inquiry?

 
The Committee is in the process of conducting an inquiry into complaints
handling and all its conclusions on the matter, including in relation to
the work of the Ombudsman, will be published in its Report once the
inquiry process has been concluded. This Report, as with all reports, will
be available on the Committee’s website.
Information on all the Committee’s past work on complaints handling and
the work of the Ombudsman is available on the Committee’s website in the
form of published reports and minutes.
 

10. As the PASC is aware of how unhappy people are with the PHSO and their
ineffectiveness in handling the public’s complaints, as written by
them in their inquiry request, please provide me with any letters sent
to the Ombudsman by the Committee regarding its criteria for
undertaking investigations, and any concerns the Committee have
regarding the public’s dissatisfaction.

 
The Committee publishes its conclusions on the work of the Ombudsman in
its reports, which are publicly available on its website. It does not form
conclusions or make recommendations in the form of correspondence with the
Ombudsman, and consequently there is no relevant material to release in
relation to the final point.
 
You may, if dissatisfied with the handling of your request, ask the House
of Commons to conduct an internal review of any decision regarding your
request. Requests for internal review should be addressed to: Freedom of
Information Officer, Department of HR and Change, House of Commons London
SW1 0AA or [3][House of Commons request email]. Please ensure that you specify the
full reasons for the internal review and any arguments or points that you
wish to make.
 
Following an internal review, if the decision to apply section 34
(Parliamentary Privilege) of the Freedom of Information Act is upheld, a
certificate signed by the Speaker may be issued.  This certificate
provides conclusive evidence that the exemption was required for the
purpose described in our response.
 
If you remain dissatisfied, you may appeal to the Information Commissioner
at Wycliffe House, Water Lane, Wilmslow, Cheshire SK9 5AF,
[4]www.ico.gov.uk.
 
Yours sincerely,
 
     
IRIS Officer
Information Rights and Information Security (IRIS) Service | House of
Commons
 
 
 

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Della left an annotation ()

That pesky Parliamentary privilege pops up again keeping everyone safe. Try looking it up and you will find virtually nothing on-line to explain what it is. I think that is so they can make it up as they go along. Good try though and some interesting facts revealed.

CA Purkis left an annotation ()

Yes - interesting what they are NOT prepared to answer.

E. Colville left an annotation ()

Here are the replies to similar requests I made to the HoC and HoL in February 2013:

From: FOICOMMONS <FOICOMMONS@parliament.uk>
Date: 28 February 2013 16:36:42 GMT
To: "E. Colville"
Subject: F13-079 Response

Dear Ms Colville,

Freedom of Information Request F13-079

Thank you for your request for information as copied below.

You asked us for the total number of written submissions received by each House of Commons select committee in calendar years 2011 and 2012 in response to their respective calls for evidence as against the number of written submissions actually accepted and published by each select committee.

We do not keep total numbers for the written submissions (a) received, (b) accepted or (c) published by the select committees: the published written evidence is available free of charge on our website* and you are of course welcome to make your own tally.

(*Note: Some written evidence accepted by the select committees may be not published but is still placed in the public domain by being made available in hard copy to visitors to the Parliamentary Archives; any such papers would be listed in the relevant select committee's Report.)

Other written evidence may be accepted by a select committee but not reported by the committee to the House. There may be occasions on which committees do not wish to give public access to written evidence they have received: for example, material received on the basis of an agreement to keep it confidential, material subject to a government security classification or material containing allegations against individuals or bodies which the committee considers to have been made maliciously or inappropriately and to which it desires to give no further currency. A committee may decide not to confer the protection of parliamentary privilege on a document which is either unsolicited or, although solicited, goes beyond the confines of the relevant inquiry.

Sometimes a committee may refuse to accept a written submission at all. In such cases the material is returned to the sender with a covering letter explaining the committee's decision. Although we do hold the information requested about written submissions received which have not been made public, an exemption from the requirement under section 1(1)(b) of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 to disclose this information is applied under section 34 (Parliamentary privilege) of the Act in order to avoid infringing the privileges of the House of Commons. The privileges of the House of Commons include the right of its select committees with the power to send for persons, papers and records to make their own decisions as to whether, how and when to publish the written evidence submitted to them. This is an absolute exemption and the public interest test does not apply.

You may, if dissatisfied with the handling of your request, ask the House of Commons to conduct an internal review of any decision regarding your request. Requests for internal review should be addressed to: Freedom of Information Officer, Department of HR and Change, House of Commons London SW1 0AA or foicommons@parliament.uk. Please ensure that you specify the full reasons for the internal review and any arguments or points that you wish to make.

Following an internal review, if the decision to apply section 34 (Parliamentary Privilege) of the Freedom of Information Act is upheld, a certificate signed by the Speaker may be issued. This certificate provides conclusive evidence that the exemption was required for the purpose described in our response.

If you remain dissatisfied, you may appeal to the Information Commissioner at Wycliffe House, Water Lane, Wilmslow, Cheshire SK9 5AF.

Yours sincerely,

Arianne

Arianne Kitchener | IRIS Manager
Information Rights and Information Security (IRIS) Service | House of Commons

-----Original Message-----
From: E Colville
Sent: 20 February 2013 08:51
To: FOICOMMONS
Subject: FOI Request

Dear Sir/Madam,

The following is a FOIA request for information held by the House of Commons.

In calendar years 2011 and 2012 what was the total number of written submissions received by each HoC's select committee in response to their respective calls for evidence as against the number of written submissions actually accepted and published by each select committee.

Your response should be sent electronically to the e-address noted below.

Thank you.

Elaine Colville
________________

From: HOL FOI & Information Compliance <holinfocompliance@parliament.uk>
Date: 18 March 2013 14:23:12 GMT
To: "'E. Colville"
Subject: Response to your request to the House of Lords (our ref: 1002)

Dear Ms Colville,

Thank you for your request to the House of Lords Administration.

The House Administration does not record such information and records are not kept which would enable the information to be retrieved. Although the Administration does not keep total numbers for published written submissions, the submissions are published on the parliamentary website at: http://www.parliament.uk/business/commit... and it would be possible for you to calculate these totals by reference to the published information.

The majority of written submissions received by House of Lords select committees are accepted as written evidence and are published. The exception to this is where a submission has not been written specifically for the committee, is not directly relevant to the inquiry in question or is so extreme or unsuitable as to lead the committee to decline to accept it as evidence. This may include material which is grossly offensive, breaches confidence or makes accusations about individuals.

Where a committee is subject to mass e-mail campaigns from individuals all making similar points it is normal for the thrust of the submissions to be summarised for the committee's information and for individual submissions not to be accepted as evidence.

I hope this is helpful.

You may, if dissatisfied with the treatment of your request, ask the House of Lords to conduct an internal review. This should be addressed to foilords@parliament.uk or to the Freedom of Information Officer, House of Lords, London SW1A 0PW and explain clearly the nature of your complaint. Arrangements will be made for someone who has not been involved in dealing with your request to conduct an internal review within 20 working days.

If, following this review, you remain dissatisfied with the House's treatment of your request for information; you may then take your complaint to the information commissioner at Wycliffe House, Water Lane, Wilmslow, Cheshire, SK9 5AF.

Yours sincerely,

Frances Grey
Freedom of Information Officer
House of Lords

CA Purkis left an annotation ()

I am still not sure what the point of the PASC is in connection with the PHSO. Madam Mellor has complete and utter control as we have all seen, Ann Abrahams was the same before her and absolutely nothing has changed, despite all the postulating.

Jt Oakley left an annotation ()

....Or indeed the posturing that the PHSO is to become more user- friendly.

Although obviously even putting 'Friendly' and 'PHSO' in the same sentence obviously knocks my comment into a work of fiction.

E. Colville left an annotation ()

The House of Commons has stated:

"Meetings of the Committee are proceedings in Parliament, to which
parliamentary privilege applies. Where oral evidence is taken before the
Committee, a transcript is published. Oral evidence is hardly ever taken
in private: but even when an evidence session is held in private, it is
normal for a transcript to be published, subject to any necessary
deletions of any sensitive material. The Formal Minutes of the Committee, which are published at [2]www.parliament.uk/pasc, cover all the Committee’s meetings, including those when oral evidence is not taken".

Well here's a conundrum. I, amongst others, have received an invitation to attend a private meeting on 26 November 2013 with the PASC relevant to its inquiry into the Parliamentary Ombudsman service. The letter states:

"The purpose of this meeting is to give Members of the PASC the opportunity to meet with individuals who have submitted evidence to the inquiry and who are in regular correspondence with PASC. This will help the Committee to identify both good and bad practice based on your experiences. The meeting will take place in private, which means it will not be broadcast; there will be no transcript; and other members of the public will not be able to attend. The session will not become part of the formal evidence based for the inquiry, but will be used as vital context to the Committee's work. As you are aware, the Committee cannot intervene in individual cases or discuss the detail of individual cases in public. Taking part in this meeting will not influence the outcome of your own case [last sentence emboldened]. It is also unlikely that the Committee will be able to go into significant detail about your case, given the need to allow all the attendees the opportunity to participate"

Now compare and contrast PASC's modus operandi conducting parliamentary inquiries with that of a couple of top judges who have led public inquiries. They recently gave evidence to the House of Lords' on-going Inquiry into the Public Inquiries Act (2005) -
http://www.parliament.uk/documents/lords...

"Lord Gill: To run an inquiry effectively, it is essential that all the information that is available to the chairman of the inquiry should be made available to the parties at the earliest possible stage. There is no point in running an inquiry where evidence is sprung at various stages by various parties. You have to have everything out in the open at the earliest stage. This means that information that is at that stage confidential has to be disclosed to the parties.........a great deal of the work of [my] inquiries was done simply by the exchange of information. We only heard evidence on matters that appeared to be contentious, so there was no need to hear evidence that was simply there to read"

"Lord Cullen: [My inquiries] were conducted in order to try to get to the truth of the matter. For example, I would set an agenda. I would say what subjects were to be inquired into, I would decide what witnesses were to be heard, and I would determine when questioning had to stop....that served the interests of finding out the truth...."

" We have a paper from Robert Francis QC, who says, quite interestingly, that the purpose of inquiries is to find out the truth and identify where failure has happened, but also that there is a need for reconciliation and recognition"

"Lord Cullen:...it is a balance between getting to the truth but getting to a situation where people feel that they inquiry has been thorough and fair, and it is very difficult to achieve...If you have access to expert advice, that advice should not come through the medium of an assessor or a member of the panel. It should come through the use of an expert as a witness to the inquiry. There are two reasons for that. The first is that if you have an expert witness to the inquiry, he is seen to be detached from the decision-maker and instils confidence in the core participants. The second reason is that if an expert is seen to be an assessor at an inquiry. the parties wonder what evidence he is giving to the chairman when they retire into closed session to discuss things, whereas if he is a witness everyone knows exactly where they stand"

"Lord Gill: My view is that when you are putting together an inquiry team to help you as chairman, one of the most important things apart from enthusing them for the work of the inquiry, is to ensure that they take special case to be sensitive and helpful towards the next of kin and the victims, and effective liaison with the families is one of the keys to success in an inquiry....You have to make it clear to them at the outset that everything is coming out in the open, that nothing is being held back and that everything that they want to know, to the extent that it can be known, will be brought out. I think it also helps if you speak to them directly, person to person, just to let them know that all you are there to do is to help to get to the truth"

"Lord Cullen: ...certainly, I find it helpful to have meetings with the bereaved and possibly the injured - mostly the bereaved - before the inquiry gets going, so that they have the chance to see what I am like and they can put questions to me and we can discuss how the inquiry is going to be carried out"

As against the forgoing what follows is part of the exchange between the PASC and Oliver Letwin, Cabinet Officer Minister at the PASC evidence session of 16 October 2013:

"Q461 Greg Mulholland: We get a small but significant number of complaints about the Ombudsman Service from people all over the country who feel that they have not had satisfaction from that complaint. I think some of it is misunderstanding, but there is a sense that there is no adequately clear system of accountability for the Ombudsman and the Ombudsman’s office and through which to look at decisions where perhaps they have been for one reason or another flawed. Do you think we need to look at having a body clearly to scrutinise that? Whether it would be this Committee, and we would have to then separate that from our sponsorship role, or do you think there should be another body, an equivalent perhaps of the Public Accounts Commission, to actually hold the Ombudsman and the Ombudsman’s work to account?"

[Unfortunately, these observations tend to undermine the reliability and credibility of those witnesses whose written submissions speak to dissatisfaction with the Ombudsman's service based on hard evidence (in certain cases "contentious" evidence submitted separately and not made part of the published record) and not as suggested on the basis of possible 'misunderstanding"]

"Mr Letwin: There is always a danger here of infinite redress. You could invent infinite layers of people checking on what other people have done. The Ombudsman is there to be independent. As far as I am aware, nobody has ever suggested that any of our national ombudsmen are anything other than independent; therefore, they have no axe to grind. The only question you are asking therefore is whether they are doing their job efficiently and effectively. I think it is very appropriate that this Committee should consider that question and take a view about it. If you are asking for my instinct, it is that creating more entities is probably not the solution. The solution probably lies more nearly in the Committee satisfying itself that the ombudsmen are acting effectively and efficiently. From my own personal experience, speaking as a constituency MP, the Ombudsman is pretty good at the job. Mostly when people are dissatisfied with the outcome of the Ombudsman’s investigations, it is because they do not like the outcome rather than because the Ombudsman has not done their work properly."

[The Minister's statements impliedly represent he had either not read submissions from actual users of the service whose evidence the PASC published, or he dismissed those submissions as false and irrelevant. Significantly, in addition, the evidence base on 'satisfaction/dissatisfaction' levels is paper-thin. There are c.65,000 actual users (complainants) of the Ombudsman service annually. Of that total the Ombudsman conducts investigations of only 2%. Potentially that leaves a minimum of 60,000 dissatisfied complainants. On belief and understanding their views have not been taken into account by the Ombudsman and/or the PASC. The PASC has published submissions from only two dozen or so actual complainants - all of whom expressed deep dissatisfaction with the PHSO service. If those complainants are representative of the 60,000 then clearly there's a massive problem of unremedied injustice]

"Q462 Greg Mulholland: I do not think the Committee would disagree with your last point, but I do think it is important to say that this Committee finds itself in an invidious position. We are here to scrutinise the overall performance, costs and so on of the Ombudsman, quite rightly, but we do have people writing to us and accusing this Committee of being toothless and failing in its duty to hold the Ombudsman to account. Whilst I agree we do not want another layer of the complaints process, nevertheless as a public body and working on behalf of Parliament and parliamentarians, all of us in public service should be accountable and able to have our decisions scrutinised to assess if we are doing the job. Very largely, I think that will be the case, but I do think there is a gap in accountability, and that feeling has certainly led to anger amongst a lot of people. I do not think we have cracked it. Whether we will as a Committee with the recommendations, I do not know, but certainly the current situation is not satisfactory".

"Chair: If I can just add to that, it inhibits our relationship with the Ombudsman because we get concerned about working too closely with the Ombudsman and being seen as too cosy, captured by the Ombudsman, and therefore incapable of providing that dispassionate scrutiny".

First point: Then why, contrary to their lordships' evidence on expert advisers did the PASC appoint as adviser to its inquiry an expert who was until recently a member of the Ombudsman's Advisory Board? Would it not be preferable that that expert be a witness to the inquiry rather than an assessor assisting the PASC behind the scenes?

Second point: Perhaps a solution would be for PASC and the Cabinet Office to give careful consideration to Robert Francis' suggestion when giving evidence to the House of Lords inquiry:

"Q.128 ...I wonder whether the way forward is.....to set up some form of process by which those who demand a public inquiry can make an application for it and, if a Minister or the Government is refusing it, they are required to give, in some appropriate forum, proper reasons why that is the case so that the matter can be at least discussed...Maybe Parliament has a role to play in calling people to account but not, I would suggest, in requiring that automatically everything has to be a public inquiry"

and/or, to give attention to the point raised by Greg Mulholland -

" Q459: One specific thing from previous Committee reports... was that where serious injustice had not been remedied, that should automatically trigger a three-hour debate in Parliament using Standing Orders, and that was not acted on then. Do you think there would be an appetite for that now?"

My hunch is there would be an appetite for a public inquiry amongst all the many tens of thousands of dissatisfied users of the Parliamentary Ombudsman service.

CA Purkis left an annotation ()

I did not get an invitation, called the Committee Clerk to ask if I could be considered for one. She said she would let me know, but haven't heard another word.

Della left an annotation ()

Fascinating stuff E. Colville. All the contradictions are there to see. Pasc appear to be caught between a rock and a hard place. They know they are powerless but continue to go through the motions of "doing something" all the while accepting that nothing will be implemented due to lack of interest at the cabinet office. What a total farce it all is. I support your call for a public inquiry. At least all the dirty washing gets an airing that way.

Jt Oakley left an annotation ()

This is the Ombudsman they've gone to inspect on the fact-finding tour and what he did..he's a lawyer of course. They might decide to adopt his methods.

http://www.nationaleombudsman-nieuws.nl/...

CA Purkis left an annotation ()

As I said in my annotation of the 15th October, the PASC are another dummy corporation. What annoys me, is that they all get a whacking salary for sitting on this 'Committee' - and let remember that's what it is -a committee. I have no idea why I tried to get an invite to their tea party. Its all postulating for the public. Nothing will change - guaranteed. It would have been nice to meet up with some decent people i.e Della, Jan, Dee, Brenda, Elaine etc, but the rest would have been a waste of time.

Della left an annotation ()

Why not turn up anyway Carol-Ann? There are bound to be a few no-shows. I'll say you are my carer!

CA Purkis left an annotation ()

I think the security at Parliament won't take kindly to me trying to get in without an invite - I have a feeling I'm on the blacklist.

Jt Oakley left an annotation ()

Have you thought if wearing a burka?

They seem particularly lax about monitoring women....or indeed men in burkas recently.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-...

CA Purkis left an annotation ()

Good idea Jan!

Jt Oakley left an annotation ()

'From my own personal experience, speaking as a constituency MP, the Ombudsman is pretty good at the job' . ... Oliver Letwin.

Oliver Letwin's secretary:

'......I also think that with all the cases Oliver has dealt with to do with the Ombudsman, the replies have been a disappointment.

Personally I would never contact the Ombudsman as I believe it to be a waste of time' .

Perhaps they don't speak.

E. Colville left an annotation ()

Oliver Letwin's statement to the PASC giving a ringing endorsement of the PHSO certainly made me sit up. It was as if he was deliberately trying to undermine the consistency of all the critical and negative views set out in published written submissions to the PASC's Inquiry. It's simply not credible that he would not have read that evidence when preparing to go before the PASC on Oct 16th.

What I find equally troubling is the Cabinet Office's defiance not only in refusing to respond to my Sept. 2013 FOIA request about the working relationship between the CO and PHSO -
https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/r..., but also CO's on-going defiance to date in refusing to comply with an ICO order to respond.

Question is, why should I have had to submit a further complaint to the ICO after the CO disobeyed an ICO order? On 21st Nov the ICO wrote:

"Your case has now been forwarded to one of our Complaints Resolution teams, and will be allocated to a case officer as soon as possible. Once your case is allocated to an officer they will contact you to explain how your complaint will be progressed."

And there is now languishes. So much for tough regulation! It will be interesting to see how long it takes the ICO to get round to taking the CO to task and what the upshot will be !

Meanwhile, here are selected extracts from an email I received from the PASC on 13th November addressing certain questions I had raised the previous month, including this one on 15th October" -

"2. Tomorrow you are scheduled to take evidence from Oliver Letwin, Cabinet Minister, to your inquiry: Complaints and the PHSO Service. Please find attached a link and related correspondence to a FOI request I made to the Cabinet Office of relevance to your inquiry. https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/r.... The response which was due on Monday has been delayed without explanation, despite my reminder. I would be grateful if you would raise this issue with the Cabinet Minister. "

PASC Reply:

"Your email of the 31 October
“[...] whether or not the committee alerted the minister [Oliver Letwin] on 16th October to the unlawful, yet unexplained delay in answering my FOI request to the Cabinet Office on the subject of identified shared responsibilities between the Cabinet Office and the PHSO based on a written protocol between the parties”.

- At the meeting on the 16th the Committee did not raise the issue of FOI’s and did not raise your particular FOI request with the Cabinet Office Minister. As explained in previous correspondence, the Committee cannot take on individual cases on behalf of citizens.

“[...] does the committee agree that this matter is, or should be of relevance to its on-going Inquiry: Complaints and the PHSO Service?”

- Freedom of Information is not within the scope of the Committee’s complaints inquiries.

“[...] the PHSO service considers itself to be a 'National Human Rights Structure". Is this correct?”

- I’m afraid this is not a question PASC can answer , the Parliamentary Ombudsman might be able to provide some more information on this.

"Your emails of 16 October
“Further to watching the evidence hearing of 16 Oct 2013 with Oliver Letwin [...] it is with great disappointment that I note committee members did not address, but rather skirted the published evidence before them from actual complainants. Why would committee members do that recognising that no court of law would be permitted to ignore admissible evidence?”

- Select Committees operate differently from a Court of Law. The Committee has used the information gathered in written and oral evidence, including from complainants, to shape the questions which Members ask. All of the evidence received also goes towards helping Members form their conclusions and recommendations.

Where's the hope in the face of all this obduracy and deviousness?

CA Purkis left an annotation ()

Elaine

Last year I requested five transcripts of telephone conversations I had with 'advisors' at the Croydon Contract Centre of the U.K. Border Agency. I needed these transcripts for my complaint to the PHSO about the way the UK Border Agency had provided me with the incorrect information for making an application for my son for Indefinite Leave to Remain in this country. The Home Office ignored my request in much the same way the CO have refused yours. I wrote to the ICO - it was extremely long and protracted, but they too were ignored by the UK Border Agency. We decided to go ahead with our complaint to the PHSO, and in our first encounter with them, told them that we had been unable to secure the transcripts of the telephone calls from the UK Border Agency. The caseworker suggested that we wait until we get the transcripts before we make a complaint. I carefully explained to her that we had been ignored and the ICO had been ignored. She suggested we write again!!?? (Effectively doing everything in her power to stop us making a complaint). So much for the helpful PHSO being there to help you. After I put the phone down, I realised how she had strong armed us into dropping our complaint, so I called back. I asked her if it was not her job to ask the UK Border Agency for these transcripts as part of my complaint against them. She agreed she could do this! The mind boggles. Was it up to me to tell this person how to do her job? In the end, the UK Border Agency provided her with the transcripts, but the PHSO refused to provide me with copies, claiming some obscure clause of the FOI Act. So just to be clear - the UKBA ignored my subject access request - they ignored the ICO, but gave the transcripts to the PHSO, who refused to allow me to verify them. Needless to say the PHSO declined to investigate my complaint as well. I still had no transcripts - the proof I so badly needed. I decided to make an application to my local County Court against the UK Border Agency for a breach of the DPA. It cost very little and within a week I had a call from the Treasury Solicitors Office, offering me the transcripts and my court fees back.
The transcripts had been hacked to death, but that only helped me further, as I had my own recordings and I could therefore prove how they had 'doctored' these transcripts.
It reads like a spy thriller and I can tell you that is exactly what they are like. A spy agency.
Recently I asked for another transcript.
https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/i...
Once again the UKBA have made up some subversive nonsense in an attempt to not give me a further transcript which incriminates them even further. They have claimed 'technical difficulties' on the day I called and therefore are unable to provide me with the transcript - what a surprise. Nevertheless - through WDTK i asked for evidence of these technical difficulties
Of course I have been ignored now for almost four months. Yesterday I applied again to the County Court. I will go all the way this time - it is important for people to see just how subversive these organisations are. My strong suggestion is that you go straight to court with a breach of the Freedom of Information Act. I will give you all the information you need in order to do this - it is quite simple. I can almost guarantee you it will never get to court, and if it does - I will help you. They have broken the law, and that is all the court cares about. You will win, and the court will direct them to provide you with the answer you requested.

E. Colville left an annotation ()

Many thanks Carol-Ann. Most helpful !

E. Colville left an annotation ()

According to this: https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/i...

"All complaints go through an acknowledgment, classification and
preparation stage when they are first received by the ICO. This work is
completed by the First Contact team in the Customer Contact department. It is completed within 3 calendar days of us receiving a complaint.

[..] The team also deals with complaints about a public authority failing to respond to a request for information in a timely manner. The team's aim when handling these complaints is to secure a response from a public authority to any legitimate requests for information under the FoIA or the EIRs.

All the work completed by our First Contact team is typically done within 30 calendar days of us receiving it."

Which raises the questions why the ICO's initial response to my Cabinet Office complaint of 21 Oct. took 15 calendar days to process (not the prescribed 3 days); why after 40 calendar days have elapsed (to date) the ICO still hasn't 'completed' all the work associated with my complaint and taken appropriate regulatory action?

CA Purkis left an annotation ()

The ICO have so many complaints they are literally unable to deal with them. They have no statutory power, so really - what is the point. If an organisation decides that they are not willing to listen to the ICO - they simply won't and there is nothing anybody can do about it. What a huge waste of time. You need to pick your battles.

Della left an annotation ()

It takes time to make up answers E. Colville when there has obviously been a breach which ICO do not want to deal with. I think I will take Carol-Ann's advice and go straight to court.

CA Purkis left an annotation ()

To get a really good idea of the ICO's "working relationship" with the organisations it accepts complaints about - please see their response to my FOI request. If this isn't collusion by any other name, then I don't know. Their answer should have read: Sorry we are unable to answer you because it would be awfully embarrassing for us if our figures didn't tally with the organisations! I used to have some faith in the ICO, but not anymore!
https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/s...

Jt Oakley left an annotation ()

All you have to do us to become an ICO stakeholder ...to be treated like a queen...rather than a mere uppity prole, who us asking awkward questions.

You can ring ICO direct for advice ( first names of course) and even advertise video conferencing for your private customers with a member of the ICO staff. All at taxpayers expense.

Ching! Ching!

CA Purkis left an annotation ()

Perfectly stated Jan!

E. Colville left an annotation ()

"From my own personal experience, speaking as a constituency MP, the Ombudsman is pretty good at the job . ..." Oliver Letwin.

Oliver Letwin's secretary:

"......I also think that with all the cases Oliver has dealt with to do with the Ombudsman, the replies have been a disappointment.

Personally I would never contact the Ombudsman as I believe it to be a waste of time."

These statements are mutually contradictory. One or the other is incorrect.

Is it possible a Minster of the Crown has lied to Parliament?

It would be interesting to know how many, if any of Mr Letwin's constituents were asked to complete a PHSO 'Customer Satisfaction Survey' ? Whether any of his constituents submitted a written statement to the PASC's on-going PHSO Inquiry?

Is the PASC aware of this? This Minister is after-all about to lead a Cabinet Office Inquiry into the government complaint's system which may lead to legislative changes to the Parliamentary Commissioner Act (1967)

Jt Oakley left an annotation ()

Welcome to the world of politics.

CA Purkis left an annotation ()

.....Where the politicians are there to serve the people....

Kathleen Dobson left an annotation ()

to carol,I have been told by my caseworker that after the initial draft letter is sent to me, I can then request the evidence upon which they
based their decision.
So if you have a draft letter you can then ask for that copy and see if they included it or not....hope that makes sense.

CA Purkis left an annotation ()

It does. Thank you Kathleen.

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