Annex: Committee's visit
to Netherlands |
Programme for visit
|5 November 2013
Lange Voorhout 10
2514 ED The Hague
|Working lunch with Sir Geoffrey Adams KCMG, British Ambassador to the Netherlands and Embassy staff.
|Office of the National Ombudsman
2594 AG Den Haag
|Meeting with Dr. Alex Brenninkmeijer, National Ombudsman of the Netherlands and staff.
|Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations
2511 DP Den Haag
|Meeting with Ms Marilyn Haimé, Director for Constitutional Affairs, Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom relations and Ministry staff.
|Residence of the British Ambassador to the Netherlands
||Working dinner with Sir Geoffrey Adams KCMG British Ambassador to the Netherlands; Ms Marilyn Haimé, Director for Constitutional Affairs, Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom relations; Dr. Alex Brenninkmeijer, National Ombudsman of the Netherlands; and Mr Peter Heskes, Ombudsman for the Hague.
2511 CR Den Haag
|Tour of Dutch Parliament.
Lange Poten 4
2511 CL Den Haag
|Meeting with Mr Pieter Litjens, Ms Astrid Oosenberg and Mr Ronald Raak, Interior Affairs Committee, Dutch Parliament.
|British Embassy Conference Room
Lange Voorhout 10
2514 ED The Hague
|Meeting with Fergal Van de Wouw, Team Leader, Children's Ombudsman.
Meeting with Arre Zuurmond, Municipal Ombudsman for Amsterdam; and Arjan Widlak, Director, Kafka Brigade.
|Meeting with Professor Marc Hertogh, Professor of Sociology of Law, Groningen University; and Arnt Main, Senior Researcher, Verwey-Jonker Institute.
Summary of findings
· Departments in the Dutch
Government were responsible for their own complaints handling,
although there were general guidelines to follow. The Ministry
of the Interior, which is similar to the Cabinet Office, did not
take overall responsibility for complaints handling bygovernment
· The Interior Affairs Committee
in the Dutch Parliament held a session each year on the annual
report of National Ombudsman. Members of the Committee felt it
was not the role of the Committee to interfere in the way the
National Ombudsman operated.
· Participants suggested that
the professional skills of officials needed to be refreshed so
that they saw complaints as a way to change the way an organisation
worked. Officials needed to have the backing of politicians and
high-level managers to enable them to change an organisation.
· Participants said that in
the past 30 years the National Ombudsman had become a well-established
institution in Dutch administrative justice, and that one of his
most important contributions as an Ombudsman was that he demonstrated
that good governance was "much more than following the rules".
· The concept of "fairness"
was very important for citizens in the Netherlands. The daily
work of National Ombudsman of the Netherlands involved working
out what was fair in individual casesnot just what was
in the law. He stressed four element of fairness: personal contact;
fair treatment; equal footing; and trust in citizens (most citizens
were honest and should be treated as such).
· Participants broadly supported
the idea of the office of ombudsman having a high profile, in
order to increase its impact. The National Ombudsman of the Netherlands
writes articles for newspapers, appears on TV, and uses the media
to get his message across to the public. His high profile had
caused some tension with MPs and some participants highlighted
the danger that a high profile ombudsman could start to try and
affect policy, which it had no responsibility to do.
· A single public services
ombudsman was generally considered as beneficial but there was
a danger of scale and creating a very large bureaucracy.Regional
ombudsmen were said to provide an opportunity for ombudsmen to
work more closely with the services that fall within their remit
· TheNational Ombudsmen of
the Netherlands operated direct access in respect of complaints.
The "MP filter"in operation in the UK for non-health
related complaints to PHSO was viewed as creating additional bureaucracy.
said that the biggest issue for the National Ombudsman in next
decade was how to reach out to the whole population. They suggested
that the National Ombudsman of the Netherlands had made progress:
for example, he now operated a "National Ombudsman on tour"
scheme and visited municipalities of the Netherlands.