1. The current Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman
(the Ombudsman), Ann Abraham, announced her intention to retire
on 8 December 2010. We would like to express our gratitude to
Ms Abraham for her dedicated and exemplary service and her assistance
to this Committee during her period in office.
2. On 29 June 2011 the Prime Minister wrote to inform
us that Dame Julie Mellor was the preferred candidate for the
post. We held a pre-appointment
hearing on 6 July 2011 to examine whether Dame Julie has the professional
competences and personal independence necessary to perform this
3. The current incumbent was appointed following
an open competition managed by the Cabinet Office: the then Chair
of this Committee was a member of the selection panel, but there
was no pre-appointment hearing and the appointment was not put
to the House of Commons for decision. With the announcement by
Ann Abraham that she was standing down we pressed for much greater
involvement by Parliament in the selection and appointment process
to reflect the parliamentary nature of the post.
4. It was agreed that this time, the recruitment
should be managed by the House of Commons Service, and the Chair
of this Committee served as a member of the selection panel. Following
the outcome of this pre-appointment hearing the Government is
expected to find time to table a motion before the summer recess
to allow the House of Commons to approve the appointment. We welcome
this innovation as a proper reflection of Parliament's direct
interest over the appointment of its Ombudsman. We commend Ministers
and their officials for facilitating this change which we expect
will become the norm for future Ombudsman recruitment exercises.
5. A fuller description of the selection process
is in the note provided by the Chair of the selection panel.
We found this note extremely helpful in our deliberations and
we encourage the Government to provide similar information to
select committees in future pre-appointment hearings.
6. The Ombudsman combines the two statutory roles
of Parliamentary Commissioner for Administration (the Parliamentary
Ombudsman) and Health Service Commissioner for England (Health
Service Ombudsman), whose powers are set out in the Parliamentary
Commissioner Act 1967 and the Health Service Commissioners Act
7. The Ombudsman assists Parliament to hold the executive
to account by considering complaints that government departments,
a range of other public bodies in the UK, and the NHS in England,
have not acted properly or fairly or have provided a poor service.
8. The Ombudsman currently has two strategic objectives:
i. To provide an independent, high quality and
accessible complaint handling service that rights individual wrongs;
ii. To drive improvements in public services
and inform public policy.
The Ombudsman is responsible for handling and investigating
complaints from MPs and, for the NHS, directly, for the assessment
of evidence and for the decisions made in each case. The Ombudsman
is solely accountable for the decisions made and in this respect
the role is quasi-judicial. Decisions of the Ombudsman are subject
to judicial review.
9. The Ombudsman is also responsible for the leadership,
governance and management of the office and therefore for the
conduct and administration of all work carried out by the staff.
The Ombudsman is also the Accounting Officer.
10. The advertisement for the post sets out a number
of personal characteristics which are necessary for the post holder:
- Visible and demonstrable impartiality,
politically and otherwise;
- Unquestionable personal integrity;
- Comfortable in the public eye;
- Ability to think and act objectively and independently;
- Commitment to high standards of public administration
and public service delivery;
- A strong sense of what is right and fair;
- Tenacious and resilient in the face of challenge;
- Ability to establish personal credibility with
senior figures in Parliament, government and the National Health
Service, and in the wider administrative justice community in
the UK and beyond; and
- Ability to inspire confidence in Parliament,
with the general public and with bodies in jurisdiction.
11. Dame Julie's CV is published at Appendix 3. The
job and person specification is published at Appendix 4.
12. During the pre-appointment hearing we questioned
Dame Julie on a range of issues including:
- Her experience and suitability
for the post;
- Her ability to demonstrate independence from
- The Ombudsman's relationship with the Executive;
- The Ombudsman's relationship with Parliament;
- The performance of the Ombudsman's Office;
- The wider public benefit of the Ombudsman's work;
- Handling NHS complaints.
Recommendation on appointment
are satisfied that Dame Julie Mellor has both the professional
competences and personal independence necessary to fulfil this
role. We wish her every success as the Parliamentary and Health
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