HC Deb 05 June 1931 vol 253 cc565-9
The LORD ADVOCATE (Mr. Craigie Aitchison)

I beg to move, in page 2, line 8, to leave out Sub-sections (3) and (4), and to insert instead thereof the words: (3) (a) For the purposes of the Local Government and other Officers Superannuation Act, 1922, a salaried probation officer for any probation area shall be deemed to be an officer in the permanent service of the local authority for the area occupying a post which the local authority may designate as an established post for the said purposes; (b) In the application of the last foregoing paragraph to a probation area which comprises in whole or in part the areas of two or more local authorities there shall be substituted for the local authority for the area—

  1. (i) in the ease where the aforesaid Act of 1922 applies to only one of such authorities, that authority;
  2. (ii) in the case where the said Act applies to more than one of such authorities, such one of the authorities to whom the Act applies as may be agreed between them or, failing agreement, be determined by the Secretary of State;
(c) Any equivalent contribution under section eighteen of the aforesaid Act of 1922 which is payable in pursuance of this sub-section in respect of a salaried probation officer for any probation area shall be paid by the probation committee for the area and shall be included among the expenses to which sub-section (1) of section six of this Act applies; (d) References in this sub-section to the Local Government and other Officers Superannuation Act, 1922, and to the equivalent contribution under section eighteen thereof, shall be deemed to include, respectively, references to any provision in a local Act or in any scheme thereunder relating to the superannuation of the officers or servants of a local authority and to any payment in pursuance of such provision or of any scheme thereunder similar to the said equivalent contribution. Provided that for the purposes of any such Act or scheme which contains no provision for the designation of posts as established posts a salaried probation officer shall be deemed to be an officer or servant of the local authority if the local authority so determine. This is an Amendment dealing with the matter of the superannuation of the pro- bation officers to be appointed under the provisions of the Bill.

The House will remember that when the Bill was in Committee the position of probation officers in relation to superannuation was considered, and the view was expressed that it was desirable that any scheme that might be made by the Secretary of State under the powers of the Bill in relation to superannuation should not come into conflict with any existing schemes of superannuation that might be made applicable to probation officers; and with a view to giving effect to that point of view, the House will remember that in Committee, in Sub-section (3) of Clause 1, in line 12, these words were added: where no satisfactory scheme of superannuation is in existence. Since the Committee stage of the Bill the Government have given further consideration to the matter, and it is thought that the better way to deal with this matter is to make applicable to probation officers the provisions of the Local Government and other Officers Superannuation Act, 1922; and the purpose of the Amendment is to give effect to that view. Under paragraph (a) of the new Sub-section (3), probation officers will be, in the matter of superannuation, on the same footing as other officers and servants of the local authorities. The other provisions of the Amendment are subsidiary and merely work out the idea which I have just explained.


We are indebted to the Lord Advocate for explaining the reasons for this new Sub-section. I should like to be clear in my own mind exactly how far this will meet the case, and how the operation will affect the local authorities. I observe that under the Local Government and other Officers Superannuation Act, 1922, that Act shall not apply to a local authority unless it is adopted at a specially called meeting and by a certain majority, and I should like to know whether the Lord Advocate can tell us, in the first place, whether all or the major part of the local authorities in Scotland have in fact already adopted that Act. In the second place, it appears to me that while, under the 1922 Act, it is a matter for definite settlement by the local authorities, who are responsible to those whom they rate, whether or not they adopt this, as far as I can see, under the Sub-section which we are now asked to support, this may be forced upon the local authorities by the sole dictation of the Scottish Office and the Secretary of State, whoever may be there.

There is one other point that I want to clear up. As we know, provision may be made under certain circumstances whereby local authorities may be combined for the purpose of dealing with this problem, and I should like to be clear as to whether, in the event of, say, two authorities being combined, one of those authorities having adopted this Act and the other not having done so, the Bill makes provision that the Secretary of State shall then order the second dissenting local authority to adopt it, and what will be the position of the individual probation officer who, perhaps, comes under one authority with the Act adopted, the other authority not being concerned. Will his superannuation be guaranteed by the single one? These are technical points. In the first Clause, we have already agreed that it shall not always be necessary, in every probation area, to have a fully salaried probation officer. It may be that two authorities may be combined, under whom one is a fully salaried probation officer and the other is not; and one wants to be quite certain that there is machinery for dealing with this problem, and that there will be no unfairness towards the local authorities in any action which the Secretary of State may take.

I should suppose that in any case, if there were differences and disputes between local authorities on these problems, and the Secretary of State had to intervene, there would be some machinery by which the matter could be reviewed. I am not certain as to whether it could be reviewed by this House, or what appeal the local authority might have in the matter; but while I am very desirous of seeing a workable solution of this problem, I am a little doubtful whether, as the Clause is now drafted, that matter is quite clear. At any rate, one thing is quite certain, as I read it. There is an overriding and dictatorial power now being adopted by the Secretary of State which hitherto remained in the hands of the local authorities, and while we may all of us, when we are in office, feel constrained sometimes to adopt a dictatorial attitude to solve certain difficulties, I am bound to say that, in view of the importance and the increased size of the local authorities in Scotland, it would be very undesirable if any such system were adopted.


With your permission, Sir, I should like to reply to the right hon. Gentleman. It is the case that the majority of local authorities in Scotland have not adopted the Act of 1922, but the effect of that is just this, that probation officers will be in no better and no worse position than other employés of the local authorities. The right hon. Gentleman will no doubt remember that, owing to the number of probation officers being comparatively limited, it would scarcely be possible to frame a proper superannuation scheme. The only way to do it is to graft it on to existing schemes of superannuation. The right hon. Gentleman put a second point: What would be done in the case of a local authority which had not adopted the provisions of the Act of 1922? We can do nothing in that case. There is no machinery in the Bill for compelling a local authority to adopt the provisions of the Act of 1922. The position of the local authority in that matter remains undisturbed.

The third point put by the right hon. Gentleman was as to what would happen in a case where you have a probation area comprising the areas of two counties, and only one authority has adopted the provisions of the Act. That, of course, would be an anomalous case. I am afraid that the anomaly would just have to remain, and the charge for superannuation would be upon the adopting authority. No doubt that is an anomaly, but we feel that it is impossible to get an absolutely complete scheme in this matter, and that this is the best we are able to do in the situation. I hope, therefore, that with this explanation, the House will see its way to accept the Amendment.


The explanation of the right hon. and learned Gentleman is entirely satisfactory as covering the Amendment, but under Sub-section (2) it is in the power of the Secretary of State to determine the salary of such officers and that does leave the dictatorial power, to which my right hon. Friend referred, in the hands of the Scottish Office. Although it is quite true that it is not able to fix the superannuation scale, which is a comparatively minor point, it has the power to fix the salary scale, which is a major point. Of course, this matter is all experimental. I hope that the Secretary of State and the Lord Advocate will be alive to what is rather an innovation in our Scottish administration, in that the local authority raises the money and the Scottish Office determines how much is to be paid. One man pays the piper, and the other man calls the tune. That is a power which, we hope, will be exercised with all reasonableness by the Scottish Office. I am sure the Lord Advocate will agree that we have to work this thing with the full knowledge of its experimental character, and on that understanding I think that we shall be willing now to pass on to the next Amendment. But the dictatorial power is there, and it is a distinct innovation in the Scottish system.

Amendment agreed to.