Examination of witnesses (Questions 1
WEDNESDAY 13 DECEMBER 2000
BUCKLEY and MR
1. It is the great pleasure of the Committee
to welcome the Ombudsman and his colleagues this afternoon. I
am sorry the Committee is a little depleted for a number of reasons.
One is that the Leader of the Opposition is just giving a rallying
call to his party and those that feel they need that advantage
have gone to experience it. I am sorry for that. Nevertheless
we are very pleased to have you here. I think we are going to
discuss, first of all, your Parliamentary Ombudsman Report for
1999-2000 and then we are going to look at your Health Service
Ombudsman's Report. We know you wear many hats when you come in
front of us. As well as Mr Buckley himself, can I welcome Mr Alan
Watson, who is Deputy Parliamentary Ombudsman. Now, Mr Buckley,
would you like to kick off perhaps on the Ombudsman side to start
(Mr Buckley) Certainly, Chairman, thank you. I will
begin, if I may with a short statement on the Parliamentary side,
since you wish to start there and later, if that is acceptable,
I will make a similar statement on the Health side. I will keep
my remarks brief, in any event, since I hope both the Annual Report
for 1999-2000 and the memorandum of evidence which I submitted
to the Committee speak for themselves. My remarks are essentially
intended to highlight some key developments. In both the Annual
Report and the memorandum I refer to the Cabinet Office review
of Public Sector Ombudsmen, a matter which has much wider and
longer lasting significance than simply the year to which the
Annual Report related. The review report was issued in April this
year, and in June the Government instituted a consultation exercise
on the report's recommendations, but the outcome of that is still
awaited. Early decisions on, and implementation of the recommendations
would greatly assist the strategic planning of the office, and
no doubt that of my Local Government Ombudsmen colleagues, and
enable me to continue to improve the service that I can provide.
I think I can say that for my office it was a third good year
in succession. As I said in paragraph 1.1 of the Annual Report,
the main task was to consolidate and build on the achievement
of 1998-99. We not only achieved that but also, in order to continue
the process of change, we undertook a substantial planning exercise
in order to bring in from the beginning of April this year the
organisational and procedural changes which are outlined in paragraphs
1.15 to 1.20 of the Annual Report. In brief, they centred on an
extension of the office's "product range" so as to abolish
the rigid distinction between complaints not accepted for investigation
and those accepted and more or less automatically subjected to
an extensive investigation and report. What we now aim to do is
take such action, and only such action, as is needed for a soundly
based and just resolution of the complaint. In my memorandum I
have sought to bring the Committee up to date with developments
and to outline the benefits which I believe have accrued from
changes. My office is now taking initial action on complaints
much more quickly than in the past. If a complaint is clearly
not within jurisdiction the Member should receive a reply within
two weeks of our having received the complaint. 61 per cent of
complaints are being resolved or a statement of complaint put
to the Department or body concerned within six weeks, and all
but a small number are being settled in that way within 13 weeks.
A much higher number of complaints are now the subject of an appropriate
level of investigation, the aim being to reach resolution of the
complaint as quickly as possible and then we take action no further
unless there are good reasons for doing so, for example where
greater depth of investigation might reveal procedural weaknesses
which ought to be put right so as to prevent further mistakes.
Although the office has not been able to reduce the average throughput
time for full investigations, it is currently 47 weeks, that is
the same as last year, really that is not surprising. The cases
which now go to full investigation tend to be more difficult and
complex than they were, and because of the way in which we are
now dealing with more straightforward cases, without a full investigation,
we exclude those cases from the calculation which we traditionally
use. I think a more accurate view of the office's performance
on throughput times would be to include in the calculation all
cases in which we initiate inquiries. Such a calculation shows
that our current average throughput time is 22 weeks. I think
this is a creditable figure which reflects very well on the way
in which my staff have responded to the changes that I have described.
There still does remain a problem with the number of cases in
which the investigation exceeds 52 weeks. Many of those cases
raise tricky questions for departments, particularly in relation
to redress, but the time taken by departments to respond is often
longer than it should be and some are just not doing well enough.
I referred in my memorandum to some examples of prolonged delays
before departments acceptedand in one case has yet to acceptour
recommendation for redress. Those are extreme examples, but there
are others, less extreme but where I do believe that there have
been unreasonable delays. Finally, I should perhaps mention the
State Earnings Related Pension Scheme. In paragraph 1.25 of my
Annual Report I mentioned the special report which I submitted
to Parliament last March. In paragraph 1.26 I said that when the
details of the Government's proposals were available I intended
to offer Parliament my advice on whether such proposals were in
principle capable of providing appropriate redress. On 29 November,
following his statement in the House of Commons, the Secretary
of State for Social Security wrote thanking me and my staff for
the work that we had done in identifying the potential problems
associated with the proposals for a redress scheme. He said that
as a matter of urgency his officials would be providing me with
briefing on the detail of his proposals. I welcome that and I
look forward to offering my advice on the eventual draft regulations.
I am very well aware of the work the Committee has done in investigating
that whole issue. Thank you, Chairman.
2. Thank you very much. If I could just kick
off with one or two general questions. First of all, you mentioned
the SERPS issue on which you made your Report last year. Obviously
one thing that we would like to know, if you feel it is appropriate
for you to answer, is as you are going to be consulted about the
scheme that is going to be producedwe now know in general
terms the scheme that is to be introducedis it your view
that this fully meets the needs of the cases you investigated
in your Report?
(Mr Buckley) From what I know of the Scheme, Chairman,
it seems to me to be very much, if I may say so, in the right
spirit. I am putting it in those rather cautious terms because,
as so often, the devil is in the detail. We have not yet seen
the draft regulations. I would want to defer giving formal advice
until I have seen them. As is implicit in what the Secretary of
State said, and I have reported, we did have some useful exchanges
with officials from the Department of Social Security. We did
express some misgivings about the way in which they were going
before. Again we have to be careful because it is not my job,
it is not that of my staff, to act as advisers to Government.
We are advisers to Parliament and we are always very careful to
maintain that position. We try in the public interest, obviously,
to give the benefit of our experience. As I say, I think I need
to defer offering anything definitive until I have seen the draft
regulations, which I have not yet done.
3. Could I ask another general question which
is about the implications of the Human Rights Act for the work
of the Ombudsman? This is not something you refer to in your report
for 1999-2000 but it is one which every organisation is having
to look at. I think there have been some questions raised about
whether some of the aspects of the framework within which you
operate are going to be consistent with the Human Rights Act if
tested. You have obviously thought about it. Have you come to
a view on this yourself?
(Mr Buckley) Indeed, Chairman. This has been an issue
within the office which we have discussed. I think there are a
number of aspects. The first, of course, is I think one has to
remember that the European Convention on Human Rights was regarded
after the warand this country took a leading role in producing
the Conventionas, if you like, a codification of decent
democratic ways of behaving. What my office is trying to do, of
course, is to secure decent ways of behaving within Government.
I think what I would say is that the sort of findings we produce
are unlikely to be affected because I think we are already operating
in precisely the spirit of the Convention. I think there will
be a new set of issues for departments which we will need to consider
at one remove. A new form of maladministration will be failure
to consider the implication of the Human Rights Act 1998 in taking
decisions. That is something we shall have to look at. Another
issue we will have to face is those complainants who come to us
and say they want a declaration that their human rights have been
infringed by something which the Department has done. We have
to say to such complainants that that sort of binding declaration
can only be provided by the courts and they have to go there.
I can see that coming into play when we are looking at complaints.
As for our own procedures, it has been suggested, in particular,
that Article 6 of the Convention, which relates to a fair trial,
might have a bearing. It basically lays down requirements regarding
civil rights and obligations. However, because my findings and
recommendations, like that of other public sector Ombudsmen, are
recommendations, they are not binding awards. We are, therefore,
advised that we do not determine civil rights and obligations
and, therefore, Article 6 does not apply. There are different
considerations if one is looking at a private sector Ombudsman,
who is doing something very much in the line of determining rights
and obligations. I am advised there is no direct implication through
Article 6 of the Convention.
4. You have taken legal advice on this and your
legal advice tells you that you are not going to experience any
(Mr Buckley) The British and Irish Ombudsman Association
did seek advice from counsel on the bearing of the ECHR. It was
relevant to the public and private sector members of the Association.
To simplify, the advice from counsel, the classic Ombudsman, myself
whether as Parliamentary Ombudsman or Health Service Ombudsman,
and the Local Government Ombudsmen, was not caught by the specific
requirements of Article 6 of the Convention. Obviously we must,
as we always have, follow the requirements of fairness and natural
justice, but that has always been implicit in domestic law anyway.
5. To take an issue which we have discussed
with you before, when you produce your report you always give
a copy first to the department against which the complaint has
been laid and which you have investigated, so that they can come
back on the factual stuff, and so when you produce the final report
there is agreement on the facts of the case. However, your practice
has not been to show that preliminary report to the complainant,
so that they in turn can come back to you on the facts of the
matter. That has always been an issue, irrespective of any implications
of the Human Rights Act. Is there not a vulnerability in terms
of procedural fairness that you might have to look at again?
(Mr Buckley) There is certainly an issue there, Chairman.
I think I have to put it in slightly starker terms than you do.
We show to departments and bodies we investigate, not only the
factual part of our draft report, but also the findings and recommendations.
That is necessary because we need to be sure they will put the
recommendations into effect or provide the redress that we agree
is appropriate. We have thought about this quite carefully. We
do sometimes send copies of the factual parts of the draft reportit
is very rare for us to send the whole reportto the complainant
if we think that is necessary. We are thinking about going further.
Given some of the pressures we are under to reduce throughput
times there is an argument the other way, because it is bound
to lengthen the process. There may be a misunderstanding and people
may think we are negotiating the report with them and not simply
putting it out for comments. As the law now stands, or at least
as it is declared, we have a reasonably strong case. The issue
was the subject of a judgment by the Divisional Court in an application
for judicial review in 1993, if my memory serves me correctly.
The Divisional Court upheld the practice, which had been followed
by all Parliamentary Commissioners, of not normally showing the
report in draft to complainants. It is something that we do keep
under review. As I say, when we think it is necessary in the interests
of fairness and producing a satisfactory investigation report
we do, from time to time, show the factual part of the report
to the complainant. Alan Watson may wish to say a bit more on
(Mr Watson) The norm is not to issue the draft report
to the complainant. If there are very good reasons for doing so,
in terms of fairness or checking out the facts as presented in
the report, we do issue the report for comment by the complainant.
It is only generally the factual comment. The complainant has
had the opportunity right at the beginning of the investigation
to put all of the evidence forward that is appropriate to the
complaint. Sometimes if we interview the complainant in the course
of the investigation we let them see the interview notes. Putting
the draft report to the department is their opportunity to check
the facts as we have identified them during the investigation.
We think in general terms that is sufficient for fairness, unless
we have very good reason for going beyond that.
6. Sometimes people write to people like us
and they will say, "you accepted what someone told you, in
a sense, at face value, and we know it was not true". They
did not ever get a chance to tell you that because they did not
see you accepted it until the report came out.
(Mr Buckley) Sometimes there is a misunderstanding.
Very frequently, even more on the health side of the office, we
recount and rehearse all of the factual parts of the evidence
that we have been given. That is simply reporting the evidence
as it has been put us to. It is not by any means always the case
that we accept that evidence at face value. We would need to check.
If things were brought forward which appeared to contradict the
evidence that had been put forward by the complainant, and which
we could independently verifythere might be something on
the file which substantiates what was saidthen we might
well wish to interview the complainant or put the points to them.
Sometimes there is a misunderstanding, that simply because we
say, "The chief executive said" we are accepting everything
that the chief executive did say, and that is not true.
(Mr Watson) There is one further point worth mentioning.
As part of our new working practices we are having very much more
telephone contact with complainants in checking out the facts
and the situation, much more than in the past.
7. I was going to ask you something about this,
when I read your reportsof course I have now had the opportunity
of reading several years of these and we go through the same routine
when you talk about throughput times, and so on, rightly so, and
we hope some of the Ombudsman review recommendations are going
to make an impact on that eventuallyI am left thinking
in terms of the complainant: you know, what do you do along the
way to make sure that their opportunities for dissatisfaction
are minimised? For example, do you tell them that your investigations
take an awfully long time"If we investigate properly
it is going to take the best part of a year"? I just do not
know the answer to these questions. Do you keep them informed?
Do you tell them honestly about the length of time and some of
the difficulties that you report to us in your report, so that
they do not sit there waiting and then get a report they sometimes
do not feel terribly happy with?
(Mr Buckley) The answer to the first question is we
do. We have a standard letter which says that we hope to complete
the investigation as soon as possible and, in any event, by a
stated date, which is twelve months from when we received the
information we need in order to make a decision about whether
to investigate or not. We also do try to keep complainants in
touch with the progress of investigation. I think our performance
could sometimes be better in that respect, but we are putting
much more effort into, as you rightly say, Chairman, keeping complainants
in touch with what is going on. If, as we do, we get something
out of the department we will write a "good news" letter.
We do try to keep in touch. I do take the point that we could
8. I am almost done. Can I just ask you this,
so that I can get inside this again, and really as a constituency
MP rather than as somebody who chairs this Committee. On page
15, paragraph 2.5 of your Annual Report, you say when a complaint
is received the Ombudsman's staff first ask the following four
questions. You go through the four questions that you ask. First,
is the complaint about a Department or body and about a matter
which falls within the Ombudsman's jurisdiction? Secondly, does
it look as if there was a failure of administration? Thirdly,
does it look as if that failure has caused personal injustice
which has not been put right? Fourthly, is it likely that the
Ombudsman's intervention will secure a remedy? Those are absolutely
formidable questions. What I am not clear about though is does
somebody have to pass all four? Is this a gatekeeping exercise?
Do you have to get a tick against all four before you proceed
to the next stage? How does it work?
(Mr Buckley) You absolutely must get a tick against
the first question, if it is outside the jurisdiction that is
it, there are no two ways about it. On the whole, yes, you do
need to get ticks against the next three. One needs to take a
broad view. The personal injustice may be that they have been
given bad advice and been messed about horriblein the vernacularand
that would be an injustice which we would want to look into. The
second question is tricky. It is really directed to making sure
that our investigations are into cases which, shall I say, are
a reasonable use of taxpayers' money. We do, for example, get
cases which are really little more than an appeal against an administrative
and discretionary decision, a planning decision or whatever. Unless
there is some reason to believe there is maladministration, at
the end of an investigation there is going to be: "This is
a discretionary decision taken without maladministration and I
am explicitly debarred from calling that into question".
There is not much point in going through the process if that is
going to be the end product. What we are trying to do with those
three questions is to say, "Well is this going to be worthwhile?"
I quite accept that one has to take a broad view of that. By definition,
if the complainant has come to his or her MP and wants the matter
referred to us, it is something they are taking seriously. We
do take account of that very much. But, for example, if something
has gone wrong but the Department concerned has admitted it "yes,
we got it wrong", they have provided all the redress we think
is likely to be available, there is not much point in an investigation
by my office. It is expensive and time consuming and at the end
of the day there is not much to investigate because the facts
are not in dispute. The only redress that we will get is a renewed
apology and a statement that the redress that has probably been
given is adequate.
9. When you write to someone to tell them that
you are not going to take up their complaint, how fully do you
tell them the reasons for that?
(Mr Buckley) We set these out. Of course the letter
is to the referring MP. It must be, under the law. We do set out
the reasons why we do not think it will be sensible to take the
case to full investigation. We try, obviously, to set out a case
that is persuasive because we have to persuade both the MP and
the complainant that the discretionary decision we are taking
is a reasonable one. We do get comebacks from time to time but
I think I can fairly say that we get many fewer than we used to
in the past. Alan may have the figures.
(Mr Watson) It is true.
(Mr Buckley) I think the approach that we are adopting
is more flexible. We are trying to produce more user friendly
and easy to understand letters and I think it is working. There
will be comebacks. There will be those, for example, who refuse
to accept that we cannot look into something that is outside our
jurisdiction and there is nothing we can do. We simply have to
go on saying no. Sometimes people are looking for a remedy which
is not in my gift, maybe wanting some disciplinary action against
a particular public servant. That is not for me. I can remember
one case where what the complainant wanted was a decision reversed.
The only way that could be done was by judicial review through
the courts. There was no point in my investigating because I could
not give the complainant what she wanted.
10. I think I just want an assuranceagain
I speak as someone who sends off complaints to you, as we all
do here, on behalf of constituentsthat as long as someone
gets a tick against these boxes, as it were, they will get through
your doorI know that involves judgmentsbut that
you are not in the business of turning someone away because you
have to turn someone away in order for your office to operate
(Mr Buckley) No, I think that is not so. I must be
candid. There was a time in the past when we had some awful backlogs
and there really seemed little point in taking on, shall we say,
borderline cases when the result of that was to send the case
to the end of a two year queue. It really was not going to do
much good. We are out of those days. Now we have a bias in favour
of taking cases on. I think the figures that I put in the memorandum
show that. We are now taking some sort of action in something
like 33-35 per cent of cases which, historically, is a pretty
11. Before I hand over, I have just one question
on something completely different, and probably wholly unfair
to ask you but that is not going to stop me. The reason why we
were late getting you in, which I apologise for, we were having
some private discussions about other reports we are in the business
of producing, one of which is to be on the so-called Ministerial
Code. One of the issues, as you knowI think you probably
have discussed it with us at some point in the past and I would
like to ask you again in the context of our thinking about this
area nowis that when it is said that there has been maladministration
within Government, that a minister, for example, may be culpable
in some way, we have this thing called a Ministerial Code against
which we can measure conduct to see if people have done things
they should not have done. What Parliament does not have though
is any means available to itself of finding out whether what has
been alleged to have happened has happened. What I want to put
to you is, you are someone sitting here with all these powers
of investigation not available to Members of Parliament, you can
go and see all these papers, you can get inside and find out what
is going on, would it not be sensible to graft you on to Parliament's
machinery for finding out whether such maladministration and breaches
of the Code have occurred?
(Mr Buckley) I think I would have to say, Chairman,
I could not investigate unless some member of the public claimed
to have sustained some injustice as a result, a belief that there
had been some form of malpractice by a minister which had resulted
in an injustice to a member of public
12. You are describing the existing legislative
framework. I am describing to you an extension of this which Parliament
has decided it might like.
(Mr Buckley) That is a matter, obviously, for Parliament,
Chairman, though I can think of some similarities with the Local
Government Ombudsmen who indeed investigate complaints involving
suggestions that councillors have breached the local authority
code of practice. It is not unthinkable but, obviously, I work
within the statute as it is now and that is pretty firmly off
limits. Ministers are not off limits. Ministers are part of departments;
but ministerial conduct as such is not a matter for me.
13. No, no, no, I understand, I am asking for
you to look widely. Not unthinkable.
(Mr Buckley) Not unthinkable.
14. We will settle for not unthinkable.
(Mr Buckley) Not unthinkable, Chairman, but as I say,
fortunately I think this is a matter on which maybe the Government
will propose and certainly Parliament will dispose.
15. Is it not the case though that ombudsmen
in other countries are to be found having roles of this kind?
(Mr Buckley) Certainly they have been involved in
this sort of thing. Again, it depends on the jurisdiction. There
are some ombudsmen in other parts of the world, much of whose
work is devoted to investigating complaints of corruption at all
sorts of levels in the public service; that is not so here. Yes,
it is possible, certainly possible, for working ombudsmen to criticise
ministers quite strongly and there have been anecdotal suggestions
that the downfall of some prime ministers has been occasioned
by ombudsmen's reports elsewhere.
Chairman: I think you are warming to this now.
I have put this dangerous thought in your head!
16. Can I just go back to the point the Chairman
was making about involving the complainant at an earlier stage.
As you rightly said, we get letters from people and one of the
recent ones happens to be on health. They complained that you
have ruled on matters they have not asked you to investigate and
failed to obtain relevant answers from the independent adviser.
A lot of the other problems were because you did not find in the
person's favour. Where there are specific things you were not
asked to investigate, you might think they were very relevant
but if you had come back to that person earlier these kind of
difficulties might have been avoided. Do you think that is something
that is worth looking at again?
(Mr Buckley) We do try very hard to get a formulation
of the things we will investigate which is, if you like, what
the complainant wants us to investigate. Obviously that has to
be within the four corners of the statute. Sometimes people want
us to investigate things that we cannot or we decide would not
be right to investigate. On the Parliamentary side there is always
this tension, and this is one reason I have always been very open
with the Committee about what we are doing, and to an extent we
are rather bending the law. The spirit of the law is really that
our dealings should be with the referring member. The great majority
of members want us to deal with the complainant, while keeping
them in touch. That is what we do. We always have to remember
that one of our customers is the referring member. There is a
difficulty on the health side, which Mr Turner mentioned particularly,
and we may be discussing that later in the session. Very often
the complaint is that something has gone wrong and the complainant,
being a lay man or women, does not know why. They know that something
has gone wrong, as they see it, but they may not know the cause
of it. They may think it is the nursing staff rather than the
doctors or vice versa. Sometimes what happens when we get
into an investigation is that we find that the treatment has left
something to be desired, but that the cause of the dissatisfaction,
of what went wrong, is not what the complainant believes. I can
see that that will lead to problems. Once we have begun the investigation
we think it is necessary to go through with it so that the complainant
does get a proper investigation. We want to make sure that the
employing bodythe hospital or whatever it may beknows
what has happened so they can put things right. I can see that
there may be some circumstances where a complainant would say,
"The nurses were wonderful, why were they investigating them".
The nurses may have had a wonderful bedside manner but they may
not have applied the treatment correctly. I can see the possibility
of a misunderstanding there. In general we do try our very best
to make sure we investigate what the complainant wants us to investigate.
17. There is some anecdotal evidence that I
have received that some lawyers are tending to use the Ombudsman
and the general complaints process as the first way of trying
to get something and then going on to the courts afterwards. Do
you think that is true? If you do think that is true, do you think
that should be discouraged in any way? I am not quite sure how
that could be discouraged. Do you think that is something that
really needs looking at?
(Mr Buckley) It is certainly something that is said
when I and my staff go round the Health Service, and it could
equally apply on the Parliamentary side. It is sometimes said
"they are using my investigations as a fishing expedition
to find things out". That may be so, but I think what I would
say is this, we do not produce anything that could not in principle
be discovered anyway. We do not disclose matters which could not
be revealed otherwise. It may be helpful to establish facts by,
I hope, a reasonably cheap process rather than put it through
the business of having it argued out by highly paid lawyers. Thirdly,
I do not think there is anything that one can do about this or
should do about this. It may well be, for example, that in the
course of our investigations things come out which suggest that
there really has been something seriously wrong. One of the cases
in the Health Annual Report showed precisely that. Our investigations
revealed that there had been a very serious lapse and shortcoming
in treatment. I do not think in those circumstances it would be
at all right to say that somehow the complainant is deprived of
their legal rights. They should be free to litigate. All I would
say is that it must be litigated in its own right, it should not
be by using my investigation report in any way. People must then
go through the procedures as laid down by the courts.
18. Just building on that point about the relationship
between your work and judicial review, some Ombudsmen, as you
know, have the powers of finality, whereas you really give advice.
You come to a view that is ultimately only advice. If people do
not like it they can go to the courts, either party can. Do you
think that the balance we have at the moment is the right one?
Do you think that we might do better to consider giving you quasi
(Mr Buckley) I think there are a number of matters
there. Firstly, of course, the legislation under which I work
creates a strong presumption that things which are justiciable
will go to the courts or to a tribunal. On the whole I am looking
at things where there is no alternative remedy: for example, on
the Parliamentary side of the office the question of whether somebody
is entitled to a particular benefit is something which should
be taken to a tribunal. I am concerned with whether there has
been maladministration, for example somebody has failed to apply
for benefit in time because they have been given poor advice by
the Benefits Agency. These are things which are rightly dealt
with by an Ombudsman, because we are trying to apply reasonability,
fairness and common sense rather than strict legal criteria, where
the conditions for the benefit are established. In principle many
of the things my office look at, particularly on the Parliamentary
side, could be the subject of judicial review. Judicial review
is in many ways a pretty unsatisfactory remedy for complainants.
The timescale for bringing a case is very short, it is expensive,
it is based on affidavit evidence and usually, although it is
possible to award compensation, the remedy is very often no more
than asking the relevant authority to think again rather than
saying, the answer should have been such and such. I think one
broadens that out to say, well should the Ombudsman be, if you
like, something like the Ministry of Courts.
19. As they are in some countries.
(Mr Buckley) The original concept, particularly in
Sweden, was very much of the Ombudsman as a lawyer supervising
all of the administration and, indeed, supervising the courts.
The Swedish and other Nordic Ombudsmen must by law be qualified
to be a judge of their Supreme Court. They are doing this legal
thing. All one can say is that it is operating within a very different
constitutional and legal tradition. The tradition of this country
is very much to push things towards the courts and to use the
Ombudsman as a supplement to the courts, operating in a grey area
and in certain areas that are not suitable for the judicial route.
That is what we worked out and I think it works quite well. In
the private sector, though, they are acting as an alternative
to the courtsinasmuch as they are deciding disputes over
insurance contracts which could go to the court and which, if
the policy holder insists, will go to the court because the requirement
to go to the Ombudsman is binding on the industry, it is not binding
on the policy holderthat gets you into a totally different
attitude and into a totally different type of approach where the
Ombudsman will, in effect, be a genuine alternative, superseding
the administrative tribunals and the court. It is a workable system,
it works elsewhere. It is very different from what we have and
you would need to have a rethink about the whole system of the
administration of justice.