HC Deb 18 July 1923 vol 166 cc2315-7

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether, in view of the national importance of the work carried out by probation officers, he will consider the desirability of inaugurating a pension scheme for these officers?


This question has been engaging the consideration of the Advisory Committee on Probation, but, as the hon. Member is no doubt aware, it is a very difficult one, as probation officers are appointed by the Justices sitting in Petty Session, and most of them are only engaged for part of their time in probation work. Their position, therefore, is very different from that of Government officials or local officials who receive superannuation benefits.


asked the Home Secretary whether his attention has been drawn to the fact that in the year 1921 the number of proved charges per 100,000 population in the five counties which made the greatest use of the probation system was under 540, whilst that in the five counties which used the system least was over 1,283; and, if so, what steps he is taking to stimulate the use of probation in those counties which have yet to realise its value?


Yes, Sir; my right hon. Friend has seen the figures referred to. He is well aware of the value of probation as a method of dealing with a large class of offenders, and the Home Office has lost no opportunity of urging Courts to use probation in all suitable cases, both by correspondence and by conferences with Magistrates. The Report of the Departmental Committee which was issued last year was sent with a circular letter to every Court in the country, and effect has been given to the recommendations of the Committee so far as they lie within the Home Secretary's authority—including the appointment of an Advisory Committee and the issue of an Annual Report. There is still much to be done to extend the use of probation, and the Home Office will certainly do its best to assist the development of the work.


Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the magistrates cannot exercise the powers which they already possess, because there is no fund out of which payment can be made to institutions to which it is desired to send persons under the Probation Act?


That is exactly the sort of question which is now being considered by the Home Office and the Advisory Committee.

75. Mr. GRAY

asked the Home Secretary what was the date of the appointment of the board appointed to advise the Home Office upon probation; and how many meetings it has held since that time?


The Advisory Committee on Probation was appointed in June, 1922, and has held three meetings, namely, on the 18th July, 1922, the 22nd February and 31st May of this year.


When are they likely to come to a decision?


There are a great many rather difficult questions which they have to consider, and I should not like to say exactly when they will come to an ultimate decision, but they are making all the haste that is possible.

76. Mr. GRAY

also asked the Home Secretary whether his attention has been called to the fact that in 1922, whereas at the London Sessions probation orders were made in respect of 356 persons out of a total of 1,270 who were tried, in all the other county, liberty, city, and borough Quarter Sessions, only 137 persons were placed upon probation out of a total 3,929 tried; if he will take steps to ascertain whether this practice as carried out in the London Courts is satisfactory; and, if so, whether he will bring the discrepancy to the notice of the other Quarter Sessions in the country?


Attention was drawn to this point in the recently issued Report of the Children's Branch of the Home Office, which contains a chapter on probation. My right hon. Friend is considering the desirability of sending a copy of this Report to Courts of Quarter Session as well as Petty Sessional Courts.

78. Mr. GRAY

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether, in view of the fact that the use of the probation system for adults lessens the expenditure upon prisons, and since this saving is a direct relief to central funds, he will recommend an Exchequer grant towards the expenses of probation?


I have been asked to reply to this question. The matter is receiving careful consideration, but I need not remind my hon. Friend that the financial position is still difficult.


Does the hon. Gentleman realise that this will be a saving to the National Exchequer, inasmuch as magistrates are compelled to send persons they consider suitable for probation orders to gaol?

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