t: 020 7219 8155 e: fieldm@parliament.uk

Government Departments and Agencies

November 19, 2009

If you have suffered because of poor administration by a government department or public body, or have been denied access to official information, you can make a complaint.

Who can you complain to?

Get in touch with the government department you are dissatisfied with. They will have their own internal complaints procedure.
If you are still unhappy contact the parliamentary ombudsman:
The Parliamentary Ombudsman, Office of the Parliamentary Commissioner for Administration, Millbank Tower, Millbank, London SW1P 4QP (Tel: 0845 015 4033; Fax: 020 7217 4160)

Email: OPCA.Enquiries@ombudsman.gsi.go.uk

When the ombudsman receives a complaint, he will usually decide within three to four weeks whether or not to investigate it. The ombudsman will then write to the MP giving reasons for his decision, and will send the MP an extra copy to pass on to you.
The investigation is free

What grounds do you have to complain?

The parliamentary ombudsman’s role is to investigate complaints and possible injustices. The ombudsman can investigate complaints about government departments and various public sector bodies. For a full list visit the Ombudsman’s website. www.ombudsman.org.uk

Complaints can be about:

Maladministration in most guises. This can occur when a government department or listed body does something in the wrong way, does something which should not be done, or fails to do something which ought to be done. Some examples are:

  • avoidable delay
  • bias or unfairness
  • failure to give appropriate advice when asked
  • discourtesy or harassment
  • failure to follow proper procedures
  • failure to take account of representations
  • mistakes in the handling of claims
  • broken promises
    The maladministration should have affected you personally, or the specific interests of the business, society or group making the complaint.
    The ombudsman cannot investigate complaints about:
  • government policy or the content of legislation
  • investigation of crime or the protection of national security
  • the commencement or conduct of court proceedings
  • contractual or commercial dealings of government departments or other listed bodies except matters concerning the compulsory purchase of land or its subsequent disposal
  • public service personnel matters
  • any body not listed in the ombudsman’s remit
    The ombudsman will not normally investigate:
  • anything for which there are other ways of obtaining a remedy (for instance, where there is a right of appeal to an independent tribunal, or a right of recourse to the courts)
  • complaints about events which took place more than 12 months before you first contacted your MP

Will you get a fair hearing?

The office of the parliamentary ombudsman (officially known as the parliamentary commissioner for administration) was created by Act of Parliament in 1967 and is completely independent of government. The ombudsman reports to a select committee of MPs, which holds hearings on a variety of cases.

What will happen if you’re successful?

If the ombudsman finds a complaint to be justified he will recommend that the department or listed body concerned takes appropriate steps to remedy any resulting injustice. This may include a financial remedy.
The ombudsmen do not have the power to order their recommendations to be carried out. However, they are usually complied with. They may also recommend in appropriate cases that steps be taken – such as improving procedures or revising guidance – to prevent similar problems from arising again.
The ombudsmen have no power to stop a department taking action – this is only available through the courts.

Anything else you can do?

The ombudsman’s decision is final. He also has complete discretion to decide whether to investigate a particular case or not.
An investigation may only be reopened if new material evidence comes to light.
You can ask your own MP to put your case to the ombudsman.