- Posted by: Mike Hedges MS
- Category: Assembly Business
I also very much warmly welcome the introduction of this first committee-generated Bill. Eighteen years after we voted for devolution we’ve now got a Bill being introduced by an Assembly committee. I think that’s a huge piece of progress. I was part of the Finance Committee in the fourth Assembly, and can I join with Simon Thomas in paying credit to Jocelyn Davies for the work she did as Chair of that committee in taking this Bill to the stage that it is at now?
The ombudsman provides a hugely important service to many of the people living in Wales. The ombudsman is often the last resort for people trying to get justice. They have been let down by the system right the way across. The ombudsman is the last person that they can go to. The proposed Bill provides many potential improvements. Can I just talk about oral complaints? The ombudsman cannot take oral complaints. Every single one of us in this room, I would suggest, takes oral complaints. If we didn’t, we would reduce the number of complaints we get from constituents by about a third. If we didn’t accept them orally, and quite often in inappropriate places, when they want to tell you about things—. A lot of people do like to tell you things rather than having to write it down. There’s a literacy problem amongst many people who don’t like to write things down, especially officially, which can be dealt with by officialdom. They have a nervousness about it. They have a nervousness about their literary skills. I think, perhaps most importantly, they’re frightened they’ll get something wrong. I think that allowing the ombudsman to accept things orally will mean that people will lose that fear. Now, that might increase the number of complaints going to the ombudsman, but it might also stop future ones, because, if the ombudsman gets a lot of complaints in one area, rather than having to wait continually for the next one, he’ll be able—and I use the word ‘he’ because it’s currently a he—to deal with it.
So, if nothing else, having oral complaints would totally change the ombudsman from somebody who works within that sort of technical area, which all of us feel at home in but a large number of my constituents don’t, to someone prepared to accept complaints in the same manner that every single one of us does.
I’ve only one question for Simon Thomas: can he further outline how the legislation builds on the current legislation to benefit what we should only be interested in: the people of Wales?