Health before Wealth: To steal what does not belong to you is a criminal activity. This should apply not only whether it is another’s property, but also to the careless safekeeping or complete disregard for another’s health, for as Mahatma Gandhi remarked, “It is health which is real wealth, and not pieces of gold and silver.” (Wikipedia) The health of another is not a commodity to be bartered with.
Sold down the river from Westminster to Millbank – by an Act of Parliament: the Parliamentary Commissioner Act 1967.
1. This page has been created to provide a seven-year history of the complaint brought by nearly 90 complainants to the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman against Public Health England (PHE), formerly the Health Protection Agency (HPA). The arguments for the complaint can be viewed here:
“Complaint Template” (updated 4 November 2016)
2. The Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman (PHSO) work under the remit of the Parliamentary Commissioner Act 1967 – the Act in question:
Where maladaministation is or may be present, as Wikipedia below states :
However, PHSO are rather too ready at the outset to inform would-be complainants that there is no legal definition of maladministration. Technically, this may be correct, but since the above Act charges them with investigating it, we would hope that they do in fact have a rather clearer definition of it than the rather woolly one they seem to currently operate under. [i.e.They seem to look at whether an organisation has done what it should have done … which seems rather vague and unsatisfactorily open-ended.]
At its worst, Maladministration is Theft. It is stealing from people what should be rightfully theirs.
We have throughout our own Complaint used, both to them and amongst ourseleves, the examples of it as used by the LGO and which are indeed now given quite clearly in Wikipedia:
Maladministration is the actions of a government body which can be seen as causing an injustice.
The definition of maladministration is wide and can include:
- Incorrect action or failure to take any action
- Failure to follow procedures or the law
- Failure to provide information
- Inadequate record-keeping
- Failure to investigate
- Failure to reply
- Misleading or inaccurate statements
- Inadequate liaison
- Inadequate consultation
- Broken promises
It should be borne in mind that Maladministration has, within it, the propensity to lead to such serious offences such as Corporate Manslaughter, which is one good reason why maladministration should be clearly defined in law.
Maladministration (and a clearly understood and accepted definition of it) should matter within a democratic society, otherwise how can people see that the Nolan Principles for Standards in Public Life and being recognised, valued and are being adhered to? And if they are not, how can we call any society that does not uphold these Seven Principles, a democracy? The government itself must be above maladministration. Therefore it goes without saying that they are the ones first and foremost who must be able to recognise it in order to properly condemn it, and, ipso facto, that they are the body who should insist that it is clearly defined. If this does not happen, then the danger is that if the maladministration is being overlooked, is it in fact being condoned? Then the people will be entitled to ask themselves why.
Please see Wikipedia:
The Committee on Standards in Public Life (CSPL) is an advisory non-departmental public body of the United Kingdom Government, established in 1994 to advise the Prime Minister on ethical standards of public life. It promotes a code of conduct called the Seven Principles of Public Life:
- Selflessness – Holders of public office should act solely in terms of the public interest.
- Integrity – Holders of public office must avoid placing themselves under any obligation to people or organisations that might try inappropriately to influence them in their work. They should not act or take decisions to gain financial or other material benefits for themselves, their family, or their friends. They must declare and resolve any interests and relationships.
- Objectivity – Holders of public office must act and take decisions impartially, fairly and on merit, using the best evidence and without discrimination or bias.
- Accountability – Holders of public office are accountable to the public for their decisions and actions and must submit themselves to the scrutiny necessary to ensure this.
- Openness – Holders of public office should act and take decisions in an open and transparent manner. Information should not be withheld from the public unless there are clear and lawful reasons for so doing.
- Honesty – Holders of public office should be truthful
- Leadership – Holders of public office should exhibit these principles in their own behaviour. They should actively promote and robustly support the principles and be willing to challenge poor behaviour wherever it occurs.
It is also helpful to examine the website
Annex B Examples of maladministration
The term ‘maladministration’ is not defined in the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman Act 2002. Nor was it defined in previous Ombudsman legislation, e.g. the Parliamentary Commissioner Act 1967. When the 1967 Act was being taken through the UK Parliament, Mr Crossman, as Leader of the House of Commons, gave the following examples of maladministration: [Bold is ours]:
‘bias, neglect, inattention, delay, incompetence, ineptitude, perversity, turpitude and arbitrariness and so on’.
This is known as the ‘Crossman catalogue’.
Additional examples of maladministration were quoted in the UK Parliamentary Ombudsman’s annual report for 1993:
- rudeness (although that is a matter of degree);
- unwillingness to treat the complainant as a person with rights;
- refusal to answer reasonable questions;
- neglecting to inform a complainant on request of his or her rights or entitlements;
- knowingly giving advice which is misleading or inadequate;
- ignoring valid advice or overruling considerations which would produce an uncomfortable result for the ‘overruler’;
- offering no redress or manifestly disproportionate redress;
- showing bias because of colour, sex, or any other grounds;
- omission to notify those who thereby lost a right of appeal;
- refusal to inform adequately of the right of appeal;
- faulty procedures;
- failure by management to monitor compliance with adequate procedures;
- cavalier disregard of guidance which is intended to be followed in the interest of equitable treatment of those who use a service;
- partiality; and
- failure to mitigate the effects of rigid adherence to the letter of the law where this produces manifestly inequitable treatment.
This annex is not intended to be a comprehensive definition of maladministration – it is simply a list of examples which have been used in the past. Further definitive guidance on matters which may be covered by the term maladministration may be produced by the Ombudsman in due course. [End of extract}
It must be said that during the process of our complaint, our complainants had growing concerns about the remit of this Act, and some of us became aware of the organisation “phsothefacts”:
However, it was not until the closing stages of our own complaint and the publication of their book by the PHSOtheFACTs group, “What’s the point of the Ombudsman?” (edited by Della Reynolds), in the early summer of 2020, that we then fully understood and were able to compare our own journey and experiences with the concurrent journey of our fellow travellers in this our “sister group.” We were therefore indeed grateful for the timely publication of this book, coming as it did a few weeks before the much-delayed Review Outcome of our own Complaint. Below is a screenshot of the back cover of the PHSOtheFACTs book, which encapsulates for us all the sense of bitter betrayal served us by this Act.
We flounder as to how the PHSO can possibly have a fair and just remit to investigate maladministration while cheerfully maintaining that there is no legal definition of maladministration. But then again, perhaps that is the exact reason that they do maintain this so cheerfully. For them, this loophole must indeed be a huge reason to be cheerful as they go about their work. Do please read this back cover in all its glory:
Here is a link to the book. Please click on the “Look inside” arrow when it appears at the top of the book front cover and scroll right down to the back cover:
It is given here again for the benefit of those using mobile phones:
“A state captured ‘regulator’ is worse than no regulator at all. The flawed PHSO process gives an illusion of accountability for public bodies where none exists. It validates poor performance condoning the harm caused to citizens. It allows politicians to absolve their responsibility to the public as they knowingly refer cases into oblivion. With unforgivable cruelty it sets up false hope, resulting in victims of injustice wasting many hours, months and years repeatedly putting the facts before an organisation which is institutionally deaf and blind to them.
Paragraph above: By Della Reynolds.(with kind permission).
See what Della Reynolds writes on twitter:
Nov 22, 2020
Don’t waste your time with #phso – read ‘What’s the point of the Ombudsman?’ instead. It will tell you all you need to know about this unaccountable body that repeatedly fails the public.
Truth, Righteousness and Justice
During our own process, we had friends praying for the outcome of the complaint. Along with them, we prayed for Truth, Righteousness and Justice.
Upon the release of the Review Outcome, therefore, we could be forgiven for wondering what had happened to the “Truth, Righteousness and Justice” prayed for, considering that this was supposed to be a complaint to an organisation promising to do their utmost to deliver justice…and then we realised that the Truth had indeed been served to us… in the form of the release of the PHSOtheFACTs book and now the shared experiences of their journey and ours. We were now able to compare notes on “the Truth” and we reflected on how Truth was the necessary precursor to all that might and should now follow.
The two groups have now met at a confluence and now they are able to share the rest of the journey. Two recurring features along the way for all of us have been the use of “semantic ambiguity” – this from an organisation that purports to use plain English. Semantic ambiguity is reprehensibile because it can constitute serious maladministration – as under the count of.. “Misleading or inaccurate statements.” (See above list of counts).
Another huge and recurring concern has been what both groups detail as breaches in the PHSO’s own Code of Conduct and whether or not PHSO themselves adhere to the Nolan Principles in each and every instance.
We have nearly seven years of this journey to report on. Inevitably, the documentation of it will be a “work in progress” but we now (Ist April 2021) make a start.
Why does health matter so much? Do we not have a sacred duty to protect not only our own health but that of others.. and that of anyone else and not just that of our own loved ones? Throughout the ages there have been famous quotes about health:
Perhaps the most definitive, perceptive and searching is that of the ancient Greek anatomist and physician, Herophilus, who stated, “When health is absent, wisdom cannot reveal itself, strength cannot fight, intelligence cannot be applied, art cannot become manifest, wealth becomes useless.”
Mahatma Gandhi remarked that “It is health which is real wealth, and not pieces of gold and silver” and Raph Waldo Emerson said that “The first wealth is health.” [See Wikipedia]
What are we then to make of those people in society who either for their own personal gains, their employers’ gains (e.g industry) or working under the remit of “state captured regulators” go to work every day and ignore the universal truth of that statement of Herophilus, “When health is absent, wisdom cannot reveal itself, strength cannot fight, intelligence cannot be applied, art cannot become manifest, wealth becomes useless.” ………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
The Six Stages of the Complaint within PHSO
- The acceptance by the PHSO intake team through to the Caseworkers team in investigating the merits for whether or not the Complaint met the standards for being considered for investigation. At this point we were told that it was a “significant” complaint and that the PHSO were minded to proceed to investigation “in principle.”
- To the agreement with them of the Statement of Complaint– this stage being the six-month preparatory stage to prepare the Complaint for decision by PHSO as to whether or not to proceed to the Investigation stage proper.
- The decision to investigate and the investigation stage.
- The final decision at the end of the investigation stage.
- Our requests for an Internal Review of this decision.
- The Final Outcome of this Review.
- Our final assessment and commentary on this.
Let us now begin our Commentary on these seven stages of the process.
- The acceptance by the PHSO intake team through to the Caseworkers team in investigating the merits for whether or not the Complaint met the standards for being considered by them for investigation:
This initial intake stage was handled by the PHSO Customer Services team. We had previously been told that we had exhausted the Complaint process within Public Health England and that it was now in order for us to pass our Complaint to PHSO. During a meeting with two PHSO personnel at Millbank Tower on 20th November 2014, we furnished them with a timeline of our complaint history within the totally unsatisfactory Public Health England Complaint process and PHSO were now able to see, and had had it confirmed earlier that morning, that we had indeed exhausted, without any satisfaction, the Public Health England Complaint process.
At this meeting we provided PHSO with cogent peer-reviewed evidence to support our concerns regarding radio-frequency microwave signal radiation and we stated quite clearly that schools, parents and civil society at large had a right to know and to be told that in May 2011 the IARC Committee of the World Health Organisation had classified this kind of radiation as a 2b Carcinogen... i.e. a possible Carcinogen.
We stated equally clearly that for Public Health England to do this and to give this information to those with a right to know was “eminently doable” ( our words.) We had a reasonable expectation at the time that at the very least we would achieve this.
2. In July 2015 we received notification from the Ombudsman’s Casework Team that PHSO were minded “in principle” to investigate the complaint. We were asked to submit an updated version of the original PHSO complaint which was then accepted as the Lead Case.
Having completed the necessary preliminaries, we then spent the remainder of 2015 working with PHSO to complete the Statement of Complaint which was to detail our Allegations of Maladministration, Claims of Injustices and the Outcomes sought.
We submitted thirteen allegations of Maladministration:
Allegations of maladministration:
1. failed to provide precautionary advice regarding the possible health effects of radiofrequency electromagnetic fields produced by technologies other than mobile phones, such as Wi-Fi, smart meters and DECT cordless phones.
2. withheld or failed to inform about specialist advice and scientific evidence.
3. failed to mention the IARC classification of radiofrequency electromagnetic fields as a Group 2B possible human carcinogen in their submission to the Commons Select Committee Inquiry into Smart Meter Roll-Out, as well as in their published information and information passed on to schools, pre-schools and other educational establishments, local authorities, organisations, government departments and members of the public.
4. provided inaccurate, biased and misleading information.
5. failed to correct incorrect and misleading information provided by them and other organisations which depend upon them for advice.
6. not adequately addressed the issue of cumulative exposures to radiofrequency electromagnetic fields.
7. not tested exposures from some wireless devices now used in schools/ pre-schools and other educational establishments/ by children/ pregnant women etc, or distances closer than 50cm from a wireless laptop.
8. failed to prevent: a conflict of interest associated with the Advisory Group on Non-Ionising Radiation (AGNIR); incomplete reporting by AGNIR; the provision of inaccurate, subjective, biased and misleading information by AGNIR. PHE have supported/ promoted incomplete, biased and inaccurate information in AGNIR reports.
9. not spoken out about the use of mobile phones (or other wireless devices) by children in schools, pre-schools and other educational establishments, preventing children, parents and those “in loco parentis” from reducing exposures in the school/ care or educational environments.
10. through the above, have failed to provide all of the material facts for consideration to those individuals who are required to make informed choices or decisions based on accurate information in their role as educators, employers, caregivers or decision makers to provide a safe environment for those for whom they have legal responsibility.
11. failed to provide the information to allow members of the population to be able to choose to take measures to reduce their or their family’s exposures; PHE have allowed/ promoted involuntary exposures in schools and other places.
12. failed to keep up to date with developments concerning electromagnetic hypersensitivity (EHS) and provide appropriate guidance to medical practitioners, schools and other educational establishments, including specific guidance in respect of those already experiencing adverse health effects such as EHS.
13. failed to consult on their complaint, to reply without delay or to correct the above.
As we have indicated, we have been particularly concerned about Point 3 above-that PHE:
3. failed to mention the IARC classification of radiofrequency electromagnetic fields as a Group 2B possible human carcinogen in their submission to the Commons Select Committee Inquiry into Smart Meter Roll-oout, as well as in their published information and information passed on to schools, pre-schools and other educational establishments, local authorities, organisations, government departments and members of the public.
We have had feedback on this from Headteachers, some of whom have indicated to us that if they had been told about the IARC 2b classification, that they would not have gone ahead with the installation of Wi-Fi in their school.
In July 2012, we were alerted to an article about a secondary school that was excitedly preparing to introduce mobile phones into the curriculum. SSITA contacted the school and a calm conversation ensued with one of the then Deputy-Heads:
We asked him if he were aware that in the previous year (2011) the Council of Europe had passed the Draft Resolution 1815 in which they voted unanimously to ban Wi-Fi and mobile phones in schools and that on May 27th 2011, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe called on member states (of which we were one at the time) to reduce exposure to radio-frequency electromagnetic fields, asking for particular attention to be given to children and young people (who are most at risk), and had called on the restrictions on the use of wireless technologies in schools, with a clearly-stated recommendation for fully-wired networks to be used in schools.
He replied: No
We then asked him if he were aware that in the following month the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC- part of the World Health Organisation) classified this kind of radiation as a 2B Carcinogen (i.e. a Possible Carcinogen)
His reply: No
We then asked him a third question: Was he aware that the UK Medical Officers of Health recommend that children under sixteen should use mobile phones for essential calls only.
His reply: Why hasn’t anyone told us this?
The claims of injustices were:
- prevented individuals and organisations from making fully informed decisions which would allow them to provide a safe environment for themselves, their families and those for whom they have legal responsibility.
- placed at risk the health, life, development and wellbeing of individuals as a result of their exposure to radiofrequency electromagnetic fields (EMF).
- failed to protect the rights of members of the public to be able to choose to take measures to reduce their or their families’ exposures to EMF.
- prevented parents from successfully defending their children’s right not to be harmed and they have been forced to relinquish their child’s statutory right to a state education by having to choose between protecting their child or letting them attend an educational establishment (with Wi-Fi).
- prevented members of our organisations from accessing public and private places without their or their family’s health being put at risk.
- prevented the right of employees to a safe working environment.
- prevented individuals from pursuing certain jobs or careers because of wireless environments at work, exposures when travelling or during education/training.
- caused loss of income due to ill health and inaccessibility to workplace/employment and also increased expenditure as individuals try to mitigate for health effects (for example by buying shielding products).
- misinformed the public, which has led to individuals facing discrimination, inequality, prejudicial behaviour, exclusion, aggression, bullying and isolation from others because of their concerns about the health risks of radiofrequency radiation.
- allowed medical mismanagement of said harm including misdiagnosis, inappropriately administered pharmaceuticals, inappropriate use of the Mental Health Act, leading to inappropriate detention and forced medication of individuals who had no psychiatric illness but experience effects of EMF exposure.
- breached the rights, under equality legislation, of adults and children already experiencing adverse health effects such as EHS.
- caused distress to EHS patients and those wanting non-wireless healthcare environments through lack of proper awareness and training of NHS staff and medical personnel.
- caused outrage, distress, suffering and the loss of considerable amounts of time, money and energy.
Regarding several of the points above, we have received several distressing accounts from teachers who, despite the well-meaning attempts of their respective school Managers to carry out “reasonable adjustments” have nevertheless had to give up a profession which they were both enjoying and in which they had hitherto been very effective. Cases like this are a great loss to the teaching profession and to the nation as whole. It also means that the cost of training these teachers has been wasted.
At the time of the preparation of the Statement of Complaint we were also asked to submit a list of the Outcomes that we were seeking: We submitted these as:
PHE to remedy maladministration, including:
- PHE to include information about the IARC classification of radiofrequency electromagnetic fields as Group 2B, possibly carcinogenic to humans, in all information about wireless devices passed on to schools, local authorities, organisations, government departments and members of the public as well as in their published information about each and every technology, i.e. Wi-Fi, smart meters, etc.
- PHE to inform the above people about evidence in the medical and scientific literature which describes biological/adverse effects of Wi-Fi and similar signals and that there may be damaging effects on users of Wi-Fi-enabled devices or those (sitting or working) close to radiofrequency transmitters.
- PHE to inform that radiofrequency exposures from wireless computers/tablets can be as high as for mobile phones.
- PHE to publicise and uphold precautionary advice about mobile phone use by children. We would like the same warnings for children and their use of wireless computers as exists for mobile phones: that children under the age of 16 should use them for essential purposes only (UK Chief Medical Officers).
- Incorrect information provided by PHE to be corrected without further delay. Steps taken to prevent similar mistakes/failures happening again.
- PHE to address the issue of cumulative exposures to radiofrequency electromagnetic fields.
- PHE to test maximum exposures close to the body from wireless devices before they are used in schools/by children/pregnant women/those with a medical condition/in workplaces (i.e. as encountered by the public in real life situations/circumstances).
- There is urgent need for individual claims of injustice or hardship sustained in consequence of maladministration to be addressed – e.g. the forced involuntary relinquishment of parents to their child’s statutory right to a state education because almost all schools now have Wi-Fi.
- People need to be given back their right to live and work in a reasonably safe environment. Parents need to be able to choose for their children not to be exposed to mobile phones, Wi-Fi, Wi-Fi-enabled devices or other radiofrequency-emitting devices whilst at school or pre-school. Children have the right to attend school without being harmed.
- PHE to admit that people, animals, cells and plants can have adverse reactions to radiofrequency fields below ICNIRP guideline values and that in some studies people have been found to experience adverse symptoms in response to a non-ionizing electromagnetic field under blind conditions.
- Statements and assessments of the science, from AGNIR and PHE, need to be accurate, honest, up-to-date and to include all available studies. Conclusions made should reflect the scientific evidence. PHE to ensure that future assessments of the science do not contain incomplete, biased, misleading, inconsistent, incorrect and subjective reporting.
- AGNIR to be independent of ICNIRP, the group whose guidelines they are assessing, as well as from PHE, the people to whom they are reporting.
- Policies and procedures could be changed to restore confidence in PHE and to ensure public health is being protected.
Stage 3: The Investigation and Stage 4: The final decision at the end of the Investigation stage
Just before Christmas 2015, we were informed that the decision to investigate had now been made and we were then given the name of the Investigation Officer – to be referred to as “IO ” for our purposes here. Two brief introductory telephone conversations ensued. Between January and March 2o16, we waited patiently for three months for”IO” to ask us for our substantiations to our allegations. We were giving “IO” sufficient time to familiarise himself with what was a complex many-faceted complaint. Surely “IO” would not proceed to investigate our complaint on the strength of our allegations and list of injustices alone?
When, by March 2016, we still had not been asked for our substantiations, we sent them anyway….. by now somewhat incredulously, that we were having to take the initiative on this. During this stage we submitted much high-quality peer reviewed evidence. We did not receive from the Investigator the high level of engagement nor the quality and perception in the questionning that we felt would have been appropriate to this stage and at this level of investigation. We have recorded in the final stages one question that IO did ask of us and which later became the means through which we were seriously misrepresented in his final report. This concerned his question to us as to what we had expected from a consultation, (i.e with PHE) to which we had given him an honest answer, but he failed to record this correctly and thereby misrepresented us.
There were also examples of semantic ambiguity – the worst of which concerned the phrases “draft report” and “provisional view” – this from an organisation that purports to use “plain English.” Also, in the Covering Letter to the final report (to the Lead Complainant only) the Investigator used the term “several” to describe the number of complaint forms received. At this stage there were at least 70 of them. A definition of the word several in The Oxford Dictionary is given as” more than two but not many.”
When we pointed this “maladministration” (Misleading or inaccurate statements) out to them at our Internal Review stage meeting in February 2019, this was referred to in the later report, but put under the heading Service Complaint...Oh.. so that is what it was….a service failure. .. or… or…. could it have possibly been yet another example of semantic ambiguity?
We do not intend at this stage to burden the reader with extensive and exhaustive details of our responses to the Investigator’s draft report /provisional view.. which were largely ignored by him in his final report.
Much of this can be seen or deduced later, in the final three stages of our journey, which were:
5 . Our requests for an Internal Review of IO’s decision.
6. The Final Outcome of this Review. See below under Stage 6.
7.Our Final Assessment and Commentary on this.
Stage 6. The Final Outcome of the Review. This is divided into five sections with the following Table of Contents: N.B This Stage is divided into “Parts.”
Part 1. The Internal Review Outcome decision released by PHSO on August 6th 2020 – which we alleged contained some inaccuracies.
Part 2. Our List of Inaccuracies in PHSO’s Review Outcome letter. This was submitted upon our request to have these inaccuracies corrected and upon PHSO’s agreement to this. Please see: Part 2 Our List of Inaccuracies.
Part 3. PHSO’s response to our foregoing list of inaccuracies.
Part 4. Concluding Correspondence with PHSO.
Part 5.(aka Stage 7.) Closing Commentary by us.
To begin with Part 1. of Stage 6- The Review Outcome letter:
In the lead up to receiving it, we experienced the usual fragmented and disrupted operations of RaFT (The Review and Feedback Team) with changes in staff, staff on leave, lost or unaccounted for complaint forms and the change to their electronic case system resulting in staff being unable to access the original case records that were on an older system. It must also be said that during this time PHSO staff had to work from home as everyone else did during the first lockdowns of the Covid 19 Pandemic. However, the loss of the experienced staff from the London office during the preceding two years cannot have helped. It begs the question that if PHSO had been really intent on improving their service during the years 2017 t0 2020 then surely they would have understood that not doing their utmost to hold on to their experienced staff would have a detrimental effect on the delivery and quality of their service going forward? Many, many questions need to be asked about this time at PHSO.
At the beginning of their Review Outcome letter, they assured us that they had given much serious consideration to all the information that we had given them both in the lead up to, and in the aftermath of, our meeting with them in February 2019. They stated that they had looked at the way in which the original investigation was carried out, to check that it was in line with their internal process – the outcome of their investigation being that they saw no reason not to hold by their original findings. They did not believe that they had got something wrong in the way that could have changed their original decision. They declined to comment on every question and comment made by the complainants. They did, however, address the key themes that we had raised and classified these as:
Maladministration: ( i.e. our allegations of it both by PHE and later, sadly, by their own Investigator… the latter of which they dismissed as a “service complaint” -as already discussed above.
Scientific evidence: they stated that PHE said its advice on electromagetic fields is based on evidence presented by a large number of studies from the UK, EU and the WHO. You (i.e. we ) say PHE has ignored and excluded information that shows electromagnetic fields are harmful.
AGNIR -You ( i.e.we) have concerns about the independence and the conclusion of the AGNIR report and believe there is a conflict of interest because some of the AGNIR members work for PHE and PHE commissioned the report.
Service Complaint – You (we) complained about (IO’s) handling of the investigation.
The Review findings were considered and discussed with the PHSO Chief Executive and one of the their in-house legal team. We were dismayed to learn that only one lawyer was involved…in what they themselves had hitherto said was “a significant complaint.” And never at any time did they indicate to us the names, or even just the qualifications, of any other people e.g. (clinicians) to whom they had recourse (as an on-going procedure) for advice. So did their debliberations take place only with PHE and this one lawyer? Where was the evidence of them having sought a broad spectrum of expert advice (as we expected) for what was a “significant complaint“? Did our complainants not deserve this?
Oh, but they did consider it important to state that the complaint revolved around a fundamental disagreement about PHE’s conclusions on the different scientific opinion and research relating to electromagnetic fields. Despite the huge amount of international peer-reviewed evidence that we furnished them with, (inter alia supporting our concerns over the use of WiFi in schools and day-care settings), they still chose to adopt the view that this was a matter for individual concern! So that makes it alright then for Mrs X, your child’s day carer, to put your little one down to sleep near a powerful WiFi router?
They questioned whether they needed “to have a view on risks of electromagnetic fields themselves in order to properly consider the complaint about PHE” but” after considering this point” they decided “that it was not their role, as a lay organisation, to decide on the scientific evidence.”
So…..three questions now emerge:
1. Why did they agree to investigate our complaint in the first place, if it was not their role to do so?
2. How did they think they could possibly investigate our concerns (given the nature of the complaint) without considering the scientific evidence?
3. What has been hitherto their use of calling in clinicians to advise them- if they cannot be bothered to do so for our “significant” complaint?
The Review Outcome letter then explains that it is their role “to consider complaints that maladministration by PHE has caused injustice or hardship that has not been put right” and that they do this by considering “whether actions on this matter were in line with relevant law, policies and guidance. The Government set up PHE to give advice on the science related to issues affecting public health and gave it discretion on how to do this. We can look at whether an organisation has used its discretion reasonably but we will only question a discretionary decision if we think something has gone wrong in the decision making process. We will not question a decision simply on the grounds that we, or someone else might have reached a different decision from the one that was actually made.”
This brings us back, does it not, to the setting up and passage through Parliament of The Parliamentary Commissioner Act of 1967….. the Act in question.
And did we mention that “Outcome sought” that was almost outscoped in the original investigation … except that we noticed that it was missing? This point was:
- There is urgent need for individual claims of injustice or hardship sustained in consequence of maladministration to be addressed – e.g. the forced involuntary relinquishment of parents to their child’s statutory right to a state education because almost all schools now have Wi-Fi.
NB. (Apparently Outscoping is a common ploy) Please see “What’s the point of the Ombudsman?” Page 163: Bullet Point 4:
“The Ombudsman can determine which parts of a complaint to investigate and which to “scope out” of the investigation without challenge from the complainant.”
Well, we did notice that they were omitting a rather crucial point (to us) and one central to our work and mission statement! When challenged over this, their excuse was that it had always been their intention to include it!
Now, as they say above: it is their role “to consider complaints that maladministration by PHE has caused injustice or hardship that has not been put right“. But first of course you have to agree on a universally accepted working definition of maladministration.. and as we know, in that worthy endeavour, the odds have been stacked against us by that oh so convenient method often referred to as “semantic ambiguity.”
So in their deliberations as to “whether actions on this matter were in line with relevant law “… well, it could surely be arranged that this is always so, there being, conveniently, no legal definition of maladministration!
However, it is important to state accurately what they wrote at this point:
Our investigation considered the evidence that you and the other complainants provided and we did not find that PHE had acted maladministratively so we did not uphold the complaint. Our decisions are final but we will review a decision to see if we got something wrong in a way that could change the decision. Generally, the individual review requests we received mostly contain disagreement with the science and provide links to the scientific studies you/they think support their view of the science. There are some allegations of maladministration by the PHSO investigator and I will address later in this letter. We have carefully considered the information in the review requests but we have not seen any information that would cause us to revisit the decision.
The letter then proceeds to address the main points under the four headings: Maladministration, AGNIR, Scientific Evidence, and Service Complaint:
They acknowledge that we believe that there is evidence of maladministration both by PHE and the PHSO investigator, whom we asserted failed to recognise PHE’s maladministration. We had given them many examples of it where these fitted under the counts of the general understanding of maladministration e.g. Delay, Failure to provide information, Misleading or inaccurate statements, Inadequate liaison and Inadequate consultation. Our main (and totally unexpected) concern at this point began to revolve around the Investigator’s unwillingness to recognise the maladministration that we considered to be under his very nose. Deputy-Heads had, after all, asked us why they had not been told about the IARC 2b, the recommendation of PACE re the use of Wired Internet in schools as against WiFi and the advice of the UK Medical Officers’ on under 16s only using mobile phones for essential calls only. If teachers were now asking us these questions, should that not have given the Investigator some indication that (at least in the eyes of some teachers and Heads who now knew this) that PHE were now suspected of not giving “fulsome information? ” (Count of “Failure to provide information.”)
We referred to Case Law (Greater London Council 1985) where a Judge identified four ways in which a decision might be procedurally improper. We contended that IO failed to “marshall the evidence” and had “failed to approach the Investigation in the right spirit” and gave examples to support this. We said that PHSO had a legal duty to detect maladministration and to name it and we gave information about Procedural Fairness to support our view that the Investigation had not been carried out properly. Details of this appear in our next section ( Part 2. List of Inaccuracies)*
They replied that having considered the examples provided by us of maladministration, they saw those more as concerns about the levels of service that IO had provided during the investigation! So that led into their assertion that they could not see that concerns about their service affected the overall decision or showed that their “final investigation report and decision were flawed.” Well, if you change the boundaries and move the goalposts, during the Internal Review process, to this extent,……
They then remind us, alas, that ” there is no set definition of maladministration in the Parliamentary Commissioner Act 1967.” Their approach, they explain, when determining maladministration, “ is to look at what happened and compare that with what should have happened” adding that they “have the discretion to decide what amounts to maladministration.” They acknowledge that we hold a different view to their Investigator “but this does not mean that we have missed maladministration or that our view is wrong. Just because we have not found the maladministration you consider there to be on PHE’S part does not automatically mean that this is because of maladministration on our part. Whilst we acknowledge and have considered all the different points of view submitted in the review requests, we have not seen these ultimately show our interpretation was flawed. It is simply the case that we have seen things differently, rather than taken a biased approach.”
They looked at whether PHE had followed its own processes in deciding if there was evidence of maladministration. We had claimed that PHE had broken its own Code of Conduct and had pointed to the statement PHE gave on their own website i.e. that they “support the public so that they can protect and improve their own health.” We asserted that the public cannot do this if information is being withheld. PHSO seem to have circumvented this area by saying that although they have considered our interpretation of PHE’s role, (one, after all, that PHE had themselves given), PHSO informs us that the statements we refer to are ” a broad explanation of its (PHE’s) role” and that they can only question PHE’s disretion if they see maladministration in how they did this. This puzzles us because one of the seemingly acceptable definitions of maladministration is: “Failure to provide information.”
We asked PHSO why, given that the AGNIR report was half owned by PHE and commissioned by them, the PHSO Investigator rejected it as part of our evidence and refused to assess it. We had explained that we would have liked the Review Team to assess the conflicts of interest, the independence and the conclusions of the report. We asserted that this was PHSO’s duty to the public and that this should have been done as a minimum to assess for maladministration. We had also disagreed that the conflict of interest associated with AGNIR was “managed” and we asserted that PHE had incorrectly stated that the report was independent. We gave examples of incorrect information provided by PHE and AGNIR, inaccurate and misleading information and the withholding of information from the public. These were ignored by IO, who concluded that he had not seen evidence of incorrect/inaccurate/misleading information or that information had been withheld.
PHSO explained at the meeting (in February 2019) why it was not the Investigator’s role to look at the scientific evidence and come to a view on it. We had asked how he was going to see if there had been maladministration if he ignored the evidence that we had submitted. PHSO’s own Code of Conduct states that ” we reach sound, evidence based judgement.” We had asserted that IO had made incorrect statements in his report and missed important points…as listed in information already provided at the meeting and in the submission requests for Review.
While they appreciated our concerns above that IO could not have properly investigated our complaint without considering the scientific information, they merely reiterated that it is not their role to come to a view on whether or not the evidence shows that there are possible health effects from radiofrequency electromagnetic fields caused by technologies (not limited to WiFi) and that it was also not their role to decide “how PHE carries out its core scientific functions or uses its resources. That is for PHE to decide, and how it does that is at its discretion.” **
Part 2. Our list of Inaccuracies submitted to PHSO. 2 Our List of Inaccuracies.
Part 3. PHSO’s response to our foregoing list of inaccuracies.
After alerting PHSO to these inaccuracies, and being then invited by them to submit these, we then attached these to a letter and requested their response within 28 days. We received this on Thursday October 8th:
They stated that they had now given their Final Response about our concerns about the Investigation itself. For ease of reference, they chose to follow the numbering of our “helpfully clear” List of Inaccuracies:
Finally, they write:
” I acknowledge you took the initiative to provide evidence and I am sorry that we did not anticipate this and request it.”
What an admission! However, they do not apologise for the fact that reference to this served to misrepresent us. There was no actual apology for this misrespresentation of us whatsoever. This – from an organisation that purports to be fair, and who is also, purportedly (and under the Act) charge with detecting the presence of “Outrage.”
“I can also appreciate why you were concerned this amounted to more than service complaint and that it could have affected the decision. Whether we describe this as a service issue or part of your challenge to our decision, I am however pleased to see you had the opportunity to submit this evidence in the course of our investigation. So, I am assured us not asking you to provide this evidence did not have a bearing on the case outcome. XX has already explained why, despite your evidence of differing scientific views, this does not undermine our conclusion about maladministration. As such, I am clear that us not requesting evidence does not indicate predetermination of your complaint. But I apologise for it having given you that impression. “
Well, from where we were looking at this, it did look very much like Maladministation – now on PHSO’s part – under:
Failure to Investigate.
I acknowledge you were a raising a number of reasons (not just singular) for why you doubted AGNIR’S independence and freedom from bias. XX has though explained why PHE considering the AGNIR report as one source of evidence to inform its advice, and the fact you and PHE disagreed about whether this was a genuine conflict, does not evidence maladministration on its part.
You have reiterated and asserted your strongly held belief that PHE did not use its discretion reasonably. XX addressed this in her letter. Whilst I acknowledge that you continue to disagree with our conclusion about this, I cannot add further to the explanation she gave and which we included in our report.
XX explained why it is not our role as a lay organisation to come to a view on the science here. We cannot reconcile the varying different expert scientific views. As such we cannot conclude PHE’s guidance is “wrong.” And we have not identified any maladministration in how it reached its view.
We do not seek to diminish your concerns and, having reviewed our earlier correspondence, I do not think it has been either IO’s or XX’s intention to do so. I agree your concern is serious and I am sorry if that was not clear from our earlier communication with you. However, recognising the sincerity and seriousness of your concern is not inconsistent with our view that PHE reached its different view without maladministration.
In summary we remain satisfied that our decision about your complaint about PHE was correct.
I do appreciate your strength of feeling about this and respect your resilience in pursuing this matter. But this now draws our communication to a close on this matter. I appreciate that this may be disappointing, and I am sorry that is the case, but I do not feel we can add further to the explanations we have now given you.
I wish you all the very best for the future.
Part 4. Concluding Correspondence with PHSO:
Having considered their response (above) to our Table of Inaccuracies we replied thus to them on October 22nd:
Having now considered your response to our Table of Inaccuracies (as attached), I am now writing to ask you to amend your final decision letter to accurately reflect the point that you have now accepted as being inaccurate.
I would be grateful if you could reply promptly to this question.
To which we received on the same day (October 22) their reply:
Thank you for your email which ***** has had sight of.
We note your request, however we will not be amending any previous letters as ***** is satisfied she has responded to the key points you raised in her email of 8 October. As explained in that email, our work on your complaint has now come to an end and we will not respond to any further correspondence about this matter.
Note from us:
This concludes the end of the Internal Review process and the trail of all concluding correspondence between PHSO and us.
Closing Commentary by us: (Under development:
We now noted that PHSO finally acknowledged that we were never asked to provide the evidence to support our allegations of maladministration and that we had to initiate the sending of it ourselves. As can be seen from the above closing corrrespondence, when we asked PHSO to amend this inaccuracy they declined to do so. It was important to us that we were not misrepresented in the Review Outcome letter and their refusal to amend this inaccuracy seems to be a contravention of their own Code of Conduct. Please see “honest” and “treating people fairly” in section 2.3 of their PHSO Code of Conduct and 2.1.” operating to reach sound, evidence based judgments”-CODE OF CONDUCT – Parliamentary and Health Service …
Not to have asked us for this evidence, within the first three months of the opening of the Investigation, seems to us akin to going into a Police Station to make a complaint that, for example, we had just been assaulted and robbed, and the Officer at the desk logging the assault and robbery and then not asking for further corroboration e.g description 0f the attacker etc. In other words… the allegation alone is not enough!
It seemed as if the Investigator was intent on conducting the Investigation on the strength of our allegations of maladministration alone – and quite early on we felt that something was amiss. Admittedly, it had been explained to us that they could not look at the Science, but our complaint revolved so much around the Science… and they had agreed to investigate our complaint……
The Final Review Outcome letter sent to us by PHSO in August 2020 and our response to it requesting that the inaccuracies in their letter be corrected, was only a very small part of the more than seven-year long complaint against PHE- which began as a formal complaint to the then HPA, later PHE, from the UK Organisations in Association with the International EMF Alliance, in March 2013. This progressed to a complaint to the PHSO in March 2014, which was accepted for investigation in December 2015 and which in due course was supported by submissions from circa 90 complainants – some of whom were in extremis at the time.
The investigation Decision was issued in May, 2017. We then responded with several very erudite and perceptive requests from a number of people within the Alliance, asking for an Internal Review to be conducted, which was done and which concluded in 2020, as documented above.
We have already asserted that evidence was ignored by PHSO and inaccurate and incorrect statements were made in the Provisional View, Investigation Report and which sadly were also accepted and repeated in the Review Outcome letter. We find it difficult to accept the Review Outcome conclusions, here and there, that had our representations and corrections been taken into account before the investigation Decision letter, that this would not have made a difference to that Decision.
During the past seven and a half years, there has been a dramatic increase in involuntary radiofrequency exposures, including the complulsory and prolonged use of wireless devices by children in school and and in care settings. We remain both bemused and disconsolate when we compare the UK ‘s response to such concerns as ours with the response of the French government to this. For example, there are only 22 miles of English Channel separating UK shores from those of France, yet today and for some time, French children have had a better chance of escaping serious phyiscal illness from these exposures (because they are protected from them during their vulnerable early years) than do our own British children— and that hurts!
By ignoring evidence of harm and withholding information from the British Public, (not even telling them about the 2B !), issuing incorrect and misleading statements and preventing members of the UK public from protecting themselves and their loved ones, PHE have failed to honour their mission statement to make the public healthier and to protect that public from preventable public health hazards.
By taking so long over the complaint, ignoring evidence, by supporting incorrect statements and failing to hold PHE to account, in our view PHSO have also failed to do their part in helping to keep people safe, and to do all they could to put right the many distressing injustices brought to their attention. We hope that the considerable amount of work involved in this complaint will at some point form part of successfully holding PHE ( and its succeeding body ) to account for their failures to keep the public from harm.
As we write this we follow the tragic case of the avoidable tragedy of Grenfell Tower. We end this commentary with the comments that some of our complainants made upon receiving their own copy of the Investigation Decision letter in May 2017. They said:
“This is a whitewash. This is another Grenfell Tower.”
NB. Please note that the work of AGNIR came to an end in May 2017:
Advisory Group On Non-Ionising Radiation (AGNIR)
2. Are we living in a Post Nolan Age?