MPs have called for a super-ombudsman service to replace the separate watchdogs for Parliament, local government and the health service.

A 'commission of ombudsmen' would act as a 'single gateway for complaints' to allow more flexibility in handling public concerns .

But in a report published this week, the influential select committee on public administration rejected demands to force health authorities, trusts and other public bodies to comply with ombudsmen's decisions.

Health service commissioner Michael Buckley had told MPs the ombudsmen were 'non-elected office holders' whose recommendations should not be binding.

'Frequently we are involved in things which involve public policy, public money and the like, and it is entirely right that the ultimate decisions should be taken by the elected representatives.'

The report backs Mr Buckley, who is also responsible for parliamentary administration. Binding decisions 'might serve to reduce the pressure currently brought on slow departments'. Instead 'stronger attempts' should be made to ensure public bodies co-operate once the commissioner has issued their findings.

The committee's investigation found the laws governing the public commissioners were outmoded and demanded reform.

The report says: 'Existing legislation prevents the public sector ombudsmen from operating in the more flexible way required of them as a result of changes to public service delivery.'

Rolling the existing commissioners together into a new office, together with 'associates' such as the data protection commissioner, would streamline a 'complex' system.

Mr Buckley promised the committee: 'We should be able to do a better job if the commission comes into being because it would reduce overlap between the different bodies.'

The committee does not call for a single ombudsman to head up the new office, but suggests a 'lead ombudsman' could help speed up the way complaints are handled.

The health service commissioner's office took 44-45 weeks on average to handle and resolve complaints last year, down from a previous standard of two years. Mr Buckley investigated 3,000 complaints last year.

The inquiry was sparked by Mr Buckley and local administration commissioner Edward Osmotherly, who called for a 'comprehensive review' of their organisations.

The select committee's report is based on its own hearings and investigation in response to the Cabinet office review, published last April.