HC Deb 06 February 1958 vol 581 cc1346-8
34. Mr. Royle

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement on increases in salaries of probation officers.

37. Mr. V. Yates

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department why he declined to accept the recommendation of the joint negotiating committee for England and Wales in favour of an increase of 10 per cent. in the salary of senior and principal probation officers after the claim had been under consideration for fifteen months.

Mr. R. A. Butler

On the recommendation of the Joint Negotiating Committee for the Probation Service in England and Wales, I made Rules in July, 1957, increasing, with effect from 1st January, 1957, the salaries of the 1,200 probation officers in the basic grade, by amounts ranging from 18.6 per cent. at the minimum to 8.2 per cent. at the maximum.

On 16th October last, the Joint Negotiating Committee recommended to me increases of about 10 per cent. for the 185 senior and principal probation officers. I had already instructed my representatives that I should feel great difficulty in going above the figure of 8.2 per cent. that had already been given at the maximum of the scale for the basic grade; and after very careful consideration I eventually decided that I should not be justified in authorising a greater increase in the salaries of these officers. I informed the Joint Negotiating Committee accordingly, on 8th January, and it asked me to defer announcing my decision until after its meeting on 28th January. I am now authorising an increase of 8.2 per cent. for senior and principal probation officers with effect from 1st January, 1957, and I hope that they will receive the arrears of the pay due to them by the end of the month. My warning and my eventual decision were prompted by consideration of the present financial and economic circumstances.

I have told the Committee that I shall be willing, at a more appropriate time, to consider adjustments of the kind they have recommended, which involve changes in the differentials between the supervisory and basic grades of the Probation Service. The Committee asked me to receive a deputation to represent to me the considerations by which it was influenced in formulating its recommendations, and I hope to do so at an early date.

Mr. Royle

Is not this attitude towards the senior officers a very mean one, and does not the right hon. Gentleman's own progressive policy in these matters rely on an efficient and adequate probation service? Is this the way to get it?

Mr. Butler

I certainly rely on these officers perhaps as much as anybody else in the various schemes of reform I have in mind, but, as I had already instructed my representatives in my difficulty of going above the figure of 8.2 per cent., I do not think there has been any breach of faith, very much as I regret not being able to allocate greater sums to these excellent officers.

Mr. V. Yates

Is it not rather unfortunate that, on an application that has been under consideration for fifteen months, especially bearing in mind the very serious under-strength in this service which is vital to the country, the Joint Negotiating Committee's recommendation should be refused?

Mr. Butler

Yes, Sir, I think that it is regrettable that that should have happened, but it was done in the light of the present financial and economic circumstances, and in line with general Government policy in these matters. Had I not previously instructed my representatives, I should not have felt that my conscience was clear in this matter. I have undertaken to receive a deputation, and I think that we had better leave the matter until I receive the deputation.

Mr. Hyde

Is my right hon. Friend aware that, at the present time, there is a serious shortage of officers in this Service, which he recently described as an indispensable part of our social and judicial system? Is he aware also that it is a somewhat ironic situation that the total saving to be effected in this way is in the region of £4,500 a year, equivalent to keeping nine youths in Borstal for a year, whereas a fully staffed probation service would have saved this amount of money many times over?

Mr. Butler

The figures given by my hon. Friend are substantially correct. I am fully aware of that matter, and I took it into consideration when making this difficult decision. But I did adhere to the original decision, as some of my colleagues have had to do in similar circumstances. I am glad to say that recruitment to training, nevertheless, improved greatly last year, and, if this continues—let us remember that there has been a rise in salary—there is good hope that, by 1959, trained men and women will be available to fill vacancies as they occur.

Mr. Royle

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. In view of the importance of this matter, I must try to raise it on the Adjournment.

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