Clause 42

Part of Criminal Justice and Immigration Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 1:00 pm ar 22 Tachwedd 2007.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Maria Eagle Maria Eagle The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice 1:00, 22 Tachwedd 2007

Exactly. We are glad that you missed us too, Mr. O’Hara, but Mr. Cook, who stepped into the breech, did a magnificent job.

I shall try to deal with the points made by the hon. Member for Somerton and Frome. The clause is about provisions for co-operation and joint working between the commissioner and the other main statutory public sector ombudsmen in England and Wales, which is why it focuses on how they will work together to ensure that there is no unhelpful overlap between jurisdictions, as we discussed, and that we have smooth working together rather than muddle. The co-operation functions described in the clause reflect and reciprocate the ombudsmen’s needs as they themselves have expressed, and the measures do not create new powers or duties for ombudsmen to consult one another. We hope that that is the best way to ensure and enable smooth joint working, and that the measure works in the way that we want it to.

We are hoping to include the Independent Police Complaints Commission by order at commencement. Obviously, there are ongoing discussions about the way in which that commission should fit in. It is not technically an ombudsman in the normal sense, but clearly it should fit into the framework. The IPCC has now agreed that it ought to be involved.

In Scotland, the Lord Advocate and procurator fiscal are generally responsible for investigating deaths, and the clause does not change that. On the deaths remit, as it were—it is a horrible phrase that becomes worse the more often one hears it, but it is helpful shorthand—the commissioner will have a limited role in investigating complaints in Scotland. Essentially and in practice, he will investigate complaints from detainees in Dungavel immigration removal centre. We believe that the arrangements will be suitable and correct in terms of the listings in the clause.

I am not in a position to deal in detail with the hon. Gentleman’s point regarding the extent to which it might be necessary to list the military authorities. Obviously, they are not involved, as far as I understand, in the public service ombudsmen’s current remit. It is possible, subject to discussions, that some future arrangement could be made that involved them, but we are not at that point yet. Any such discussions would doubtless in part deal with ensuring that the relevant official or complaints arrangement was placed  on the statute at the relevant time. Such a situation is not envisaged at present, but it is not ruled out for the future.