Appointment of the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman

I spoke in the Chamber on 24 January 2017 to endorse the appointment of Robert Fredrick Behrens CBE to the offices of Parliamentary Commissioner for Administration and Health Service Commissioner for England.


The Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman combines the two statutory roles of Parliamentary Commissioner for Administration and Health Service Commissioner for England, whose powers are set out in the Parliamentary Commissioner Act 1967 and the Health Service Commissioners Act 1993 respectively.


The Ombudsman’s role is to investigate complaints that individuals have been treated unfairly or have received poor service from government departments and other public organisations and the NHS in England. Cases must be referred to the Ombudsman by an MP.


Below is my speech:


“I welcome the Minister’s comments and fully endorse his sentiments. I add the thanks of Her Majesty’s Opposition to the outgoing Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman, Dame Julie Mellor. The Minister and I both served as members of the Health Committee, so we know of her hard work. I thank the interview panel, which was chaired by Philippa Helme, Principal Clerk of the Table Office; all the panellists were extremely formidable. I thank the Health Committee and the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee for their scrutiny at the pre-appointment hearing.


Mr Behrens is an extremely qualified candidate for the role of parliamentary and health service ombudsman, with all the expectations of that role from the public. He has shown that as the independent adjudicator and chief executive of the Office of the Independent Adjudicator for higher education, and, more importantly, in his work on the transformation to democratic rule in South Africa, for which he was personally commended by the late President Nelson Mandela and the now Lord Robin Butler.


There was also his transformative work as complaints commissioner to the Bar Standards Board of England and Wales, which delivered a review that led to 52 changes in disciplinary and complaints procedures, including a new process of determination by agreement, and in setting up the widely respected civil service fast stream. Her Majesty’s Opposition welcome and endorse the appointment of Mr Rob Behrens CBE and wish him well in his new role.”