§ 3.39 p.m.
§ Mr. Anthony Greenwood (Rossendale)
In calling attention to Subhead B.I of the Home Office Vote and asking a number of questions of the Joint Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department to elucidate why the Home Office needs this additional sum, I hope that it will not be assumed that we are criticising probation officers or questioning the value of the probation service.
The speech that my hon. Friend the Member for Salford, West (Mr. Royle) made in the Adjournment debate on Thursday night last must have removed any doubt as to the warm regard that this House has for the probation officers, and for the service as a whole. As a juvenile court magistrate, I know very well the devoted service that these officers give and like, I think, other magistrates, I constantly find myself wondering how the courts could work properly without the probation officer helping the deserted wife, accepting responsibility for the adult casualties of our social system, and taking charge of young people who are too great a problem for their parents.
All of us, I think, would endorse the words used by the Home Secretary in May, 1957, when he addressed the conference of the National Association of Probation Officers on the fiftieth anniversary of the passage of Lord Samuel's original Measure, the Probation of Offenders Act, 1907, which set up the probation service. On that occasion, the right hon. Gentleman said:All concerned—the courts, the Probation Service itself and the Home Office—are satisfied that the probation method of treatment is an indispensable part of our social and judicial system…We have travelled a long way, Mr. Speaker, from the old police court missionary days, when the missionaries were paid for largely out of charity. All of us rejoice at the progress that has been made, but in at least one respect those old days have left their effect. Recently, Mr. Dawtry, the General Secretary of the National Association of Probation Officers, in a letter to me, used these words:The early days of patronage have left their mark and it is still common to find references to the vocational nature of the probation 938 officer's work, which is true enough for it could not be undertaken without a sense of vocation; but it is no longer right for vocation to be regarded as a substitute for a living salary.The Vote to which I wish especially to direct the attention of the House is Subhead B.1, and the information that it gives is not as full as one could wish. It is to make additional provision…to meet increases in salaries, and in maintenance costs of official accommodation, &c.; partly offset by savings on other items.There is no indication of what is meant by &c. ", and the three words," increases in salaries," are not as informative as we would like them to be. Also on the same page, on the same Vote, and under Subhead A.1 the words used are "increases in remuneration." In Vote 3, Subhead E.1, the same words, "increases in remuneration", are used, and in Vote 4, subhead A.1, these words are used:Additional provision required for revised scales of pay.It might, perhaps, be as well if, on future occasions, the Home Office were, as it were, to systematise its choice of words, so that we could know exactly what is involved in the various subheads that we are asked to consider. As this one is to meet "increases in salaries", I think that it is right to assume that the increase arises partly from an increase in the number of probation officers employed, partly from an extension of their functions and an increase in their case load, and partly from higher salaries that are being paid to individual officers.
I would, first, direct attention to the salaries that probation officers are receiving. In the period under review, there was an increase that is, no doubt, covered by this Vote. It may be of help if I remind hon. Members that the salaries of probation officers are negotiated by a joint negotiating committee, which held its first meeting in 1950. The employer's side of the joint negotiating committee consists of four representatives of the Association of Municipal Corporations, four from the County Councils' Association, three from the Magistrates' Association, and two from the Home Office. The staff side is represented by eight members of the National Association of Probation Officers.
In April, 1956, the Association asked for a comprehensive review of the salaries of all probation officers. That claim was not considered until August, 1956, and 939 on that occasion it was deferred so that a detailed claim could be submitted. That detailed claim was submitted, and was considered in November, 1956; but in January, 1957, the claim was rejected, and a 2½ per cent. increase was offered. That was not acceptable to the Association.
By general agreement, the claim then went to the Industrial Court, but the claim that was sent forward was limited to ordinary probation officers. In other words, at that stage, senior and principal probation officers were excluded from the Court's terms of reference, but it was agreed between the employers and the staff side that the Joint Negotiating Committee should resume discussion of the salaries of those officers in the light of the decision of the Industrial Court.
The Court finally made an award increasing the minimum salaries of probation officers from £485 to £575 a year, and increasing their maximum salaries from £795 to £860. That £860 is the maximum salary that the vast majority of probation officers can hope to receive. After that award had been made, the employers in the Joint Negotiating Committee were most helpful. They agreed to a shorter scale and to larger increments, thus making the service rather more attractive than would otherwise have been the case.
After that award had been made, negotiations were resumed in respect of senior and principal probation officers, but those negotiations were not completed until October of last year. By that time, compromise had been reached on increases of approximately 10 per cent. in the pay of these two senior grades. That recommendation of the Joint Negotiating Committee went to the Home Secretary on 16th October. On 20th December, as no decision had been communicated by the Home Secretary, I put down a Written Question to him which he answered saying that he was not yet in a position to make a statement.
It was not until 30th January this year that the Home Secretary published his decision. He said that he could not accept the recommendation of the Joint Negotiating Committee, but proposed, instead, to give increases of 8.2 per cent., which would be back-dated to 1st January, 1957. That meant that instead 940 of a 10 per cent. increase, the increase which the Home Secretary approved was only 8.2 per cent., which would result in a saving to public funds of about £4,500 a year.
Upon that decision of the Home Secretary the Observer commented:It will affect the morale and recruiting prospects of a Service which even now is seriously below strength…This is not only a niggardly ruling, but false economy.I hope that, even at this stage, the Home Secretary will find it possible to take a more generous view of a service which has rendered considerable public benefit. I know that discussions are still proceeding.
I do not think I can go further into that without transgressing the rules of order, but I think it is true to say that it is, at any rate, partly to pay for those two increases that this Vote is necessary today.
§ Mr. Scholefield Allen (Crewe)
Could my hon. Friend tell me what is the present top salary, with the 8½ per cent. increase?
§ Mr. Greenwood
The salary of a principal probation officer varies from area to area. In an area with a population up to 300,000 the maximum salary, I understand, is £1,135 a year. In an area with a population between 1¼ million and 2¼ million the maximum is £1,565 a year. In London, the maximum is £1,730 a year. I have the details here if my hon. and learned Friend would like to see them.
Before I turn to the question of numbers, I want to touch upon the growth of the case load which probation officers are carrying and also the extension of their functions, because those are two factors which were taken into account by the Industrial Court when it presented its Report, No. 2648, on the probation service in May, 1957. I should like to ask the Joint Under-Secretary of State whether the increased expenditure which we are asked to vote is due to any considerable extent to these two factors of an increased case load and an extension of the functions of probation officers.
In an article which he wrote in the British Journal of Delinquency, a short time ago, Mr. Dawtry, to whom I have already referred, said:Probation, once used 'for the simple or youthful offence, is now regarded as a form of 941 treatment for serious social problems where the work of well-trained case workers is required. Many of those placed on probation by the courts today are seriously disturbed people who need a long period of supervision and intensive case work, rather than simple friendship and guidance.It is true that over the years the function of probation officers has gradually been extended. The Criminal Justice Act, 1948, for which my right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) was responsible, led to the acceptance by probation officers of a statutory duty to undertake the after-care of certain classes of offender. Those classes were increased by the Probation (No. 2) Rules, 1952. It is interesting to note that 7,000 persons discharged from penal or training institutions are under the care of probation officers.
In the domestic field, about 75,000 actual or potential breakdowns of marriages are dealt with every year by officers in the probation service. Since 1952, probation officers have been attached to the divorce courts as court welfare officers, following the recommendations of the Royal Commission on Marriage and Divorce. My hon. Friend the Member for Oldbury and Halesowen (Mr. Moyle) is proposing greatly to extend this side of the probation officers' work by the Matrimonial Proceedings (Children) Bill. Last year the Home Secretary's Advisory Council on the Treatment of Offenders suggested in its Report, "Alternatives to Short Sentences of Imprisonment," that probation officers should be used more widely in social inquiries by courts. The Wolfenden Committee suggested a further extension of the probation officers' work.
We are, therefore, entitled to ask, when considering the Supplementary Estimate, what is the present case load which probation officers are carrying, whether it is increasing and whether the additional expenditure is in any way attributable to these factors.
I want to turn next to the numbers of probation officers who are employed. To some extent this increase in expenditure must be due to improved recruitment. About three weeks ago the Home Secretary gave a Written Answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Holborn and St. Pancras South (Mrs. L. Jeger) in which he said that there are now 1,388 officers employed; 33 of them are temporary and 942 54 of them are part-time. The Home Secretary said that the present vacancies are, therefore, between 70 and 80. He went on:When these vacancies are filled, as I hope they may be within the next year or two, the Service should be well equipped to meet the demands made upon it by a progressive policy of penal reform."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 13th February. 1958; Vol. 582, c. 81.]We welcome that pronouncement by the Home Secretary. It is the view of many people, including some hon. Members, that the establishment which the Home Secretary is considering is too low and that even if the establishment were completely filled——
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Member, but he is going a little wide of the Supplementary Estimate.
This is one of the difficulties which we encounter in a debate on a Supplementary Estimate of a relatively minor character compared with the total sum which has already been voted. The rule is that one can discuss only the causes which have led to the increase before the House at the moment.
The general policy of probation, in so far as it was covered by the previous Vote to which this is a Supplementary Vote, would not be in order on the Supplementary Estimate. I am prepared to allow as much latitude as I can, but I am bound to ask hon. Members to maintain the rule in Supply.
§ Mr. Greenwood
I appreciate the Ruling which you have given, Mr. Speaker. It seemed to me that the additional expenditure in the Supplementary Estimate is called for either by increased salaries to the same number of probation officers or the payment of salary to an increased number of officers, and I was trying to direct the attention of the House to the question of the numbers employed and the extent to which they have increased over the last year.
I am most grateful for the guidance which you have given me, Sir, and perhaps I might round off the point by saying that whatever the truth of the increase in the number of probation officers over the past year, and whether the establishment provided by the Home Office is adequate, many probation officers are 943 overworked and many districts are understaffed. Certain proposals are being made at the moment, especially in Lancashire, which, in the view of many of us, are of very dubious value.
The number of probation officers who will benefit from this Supplementary Estimate is that given by the Home Secretary, but I believe that to some extent the shortage of probation officers is disguised by the figures which the Home Secretary has given. Some of them are temporary officers and, much more serious, in some cases probation committees have been forced to employ untrained people and have even been advised by the Home Secretary to take on as probation officers people who have not received the normal training which probation officers obtain.
I should like to tell the House of the experience of some probation committees in this respect. One committee in Lancashire, for example, advertised on five occasions and had only one applicant for the post. Another, in Lincolnshire, spent £85 on advertising, without any useful response. Presumably, some part of the Supplementary Estimate must cover the cost of probation committees advertising for the staff they require. Some areas also have had unfilled vacancies for many months, and in others the Ministry of Labour is sending along likely candidates from its books. The relevance of this is that such appointments are usually followed by some training, but not the full training which a normal entrant receives. I should like to ask the hon. and learned Gentleman to what extent this increased sum is being paid to men and women who have little or no training in the sense in which the probation service normally tinder-stands it.
I should have liked to discuss the question of setting up a committee to review the work of the probation service, but I think that that would be out of order. I shall conclude, therefore, by saying that, because we set such high store by the work of the probation service and the quality of its officers, we shall not oppose the granting of this additional sum of money. We believe that the claim for a committee to review the service should be met and that the decision of the joint negotiating committee should be honoured by the Home Secretary.
944 I will end by quoting the words of the Home Secretary in the Sunday Times yesterday:The successful treatment of all offenders—especially juvenile offenders—depends in the last resort on the individuals who select and carry out the treatment. Unless the juvenile courts are composed of men and women who combine commonsense and imagination, sympathy with the young and an insight into their problems, the difficult individual judgment which each case requires will not be wisely made. Similarly, when treatment has been settled it is on the individual probation officer, the individual approved school master and all the others who share this responsible duty that we rely to see that it is given with understanding and firmness.We ask a great deal of all these people. Frustration and disappointment can so easily damp enthusiasm.
§ 4.3 p.m.
§ Mr. E. Partridge (Battersea, South)
I shall find it a little difficult to keep within order, Mr. Speaker, after your Ruling, but this much can be said, I think: that at least half of the time taken by the hon. Member for Rossendale (Mr. Anthony Greenwood) was devoted to the remuneration of probation officers. If one is to judge by the length of time he spent upon it, one must conclude that he puts an undue emphasis on an aspect of the service for which the probation officers, I think, will not thank him. Naturally, they must have sufficient money for their needs, but their primary concern is not, in my experience, for an increase in their own salaries. It is unfortunate that this additional Vote should have been dealt with by the hon. Member for Rossendale in that way.
I take of the service as a whole a view rather different from that taken by the hon. Member for Rossendale. Perhaps I may be able to say a little more than would otherwise be allowed if I say, first, that the fruits of the work of this service cannot be measured in terms of money. The work done is psychological, there being no standard by which it may be measured in £ s. d., although one is quite sure any money which is spent pays handsome dividends. Because one cannot measure the work in terms of money, I hope that you will permit me, Mr. Speaker, to put the suggestion to my hon. and learned Friend that an inquiry into the service is due now.
The money which is spent on the service and required by this additional Vote should be spent in such a way that the 945 greatest benefit is derived from it and the officers in the service are able to give of their best. Although the hon. Member for Rossendale found himself inhibited from asking for the inquiry, I hope that you will allow me to propound that suggestion to my hon. and learned Friend.
§ Mr. Speaker
If the hon. Gentleman can direct the subject to the Supplementary Estimate which is before us, he will be in order; but I do not see how he can.
§ Mr. Partridge
This Supplementary Estimate is required to meetincreases in salaries, and in maintenance costs of official accommodation, &c.In so far as it applied to increases in salaries, one could advance one argument, but in so far as it related to maintenance costs of official accommodation, one could advance an entirely different argument. It is to ensure that we have the right balance between the two that I ask that a Departmental committee should be set up. I hope that you will say, Sir, that I am in order in propounding that point to my hon. and learned Friend.
§ Mr. Partridge
That is excellent, Mr. Speaker. I have propounded it, and it is on the record.
Before I get into deeper water, I will content myself with saying that this is a service which all those who have anything to do with the recipients and beneficiaries of its wise counsel and guidance must have very dear to their hearts. We do not begrudge this additional sum which is asked for, and we hope that the service will go from strength to strength.
§ 4.9 p.m.
§ Mr. Scholefield Allen (Crewe)
The service we are discussing is now celebrating its fiftieth year of life. I was hoping to put a "new look" upon the service in the course of my remarks, but I can do so, apparently, only by endorsing that which should not have been said by the hon. Member for Battersea. South (Mr. Partridge).
§ Mr. Barnett Janner (Leicester, North-West)
On a point of order, if my hon. 946 and learned Friend will forgive me. May I ask you, Mr. Speaker, what may or may not be raised here? In page 54 of the Estimate we are told that the money is requiredto meet increases in salaries, and in maintenance costs of official accommodation, &c.Surely, Sir, as there is nothing defined in the "&c.", the debate might range fairly widely. We have no information at all as to the details of the £90,000 required.
In the circumstances, many of us who wish to speak on the probation service will be obliged, if not now, later, to refer to the details and ask what the £90,000 is for. In the meantime, the question may be asked whether it is required for something other than what may be described later. If I may say so with respect, we should be entitled to speak on this service on more general terms. It is a matter of great importance and of considerable interest.
§ Mr. Speaker
Frankly, I am construing the words "&c." in the way that members of the hon. Member's profession would call, I believe, sui generis, or whatever it is—meaning things of the same sort. I do not see how the letters signifying "&c." would allow the hon. Member to range over the whole service.
§ Mr. Peter Rawlinson (Epsom)
Further to that point of order. I say this with great hesitation, Mr. Speaker, but do you not mean ejusden generis and not sui generis?
§ Mr. Speaker
It is so long since I was acquainted with matters of this kind. I was taking the phrase as meaning things like salaries and accommodation.
§ Mr. Janner
I appreciate that, Sir. There are many subjects with which one could deal, and the general aspect, as you know, Mr. Speaker, from your own personal information, with regard to the probation service would, in my view, and, I respectfully hope, in your view, permit fairly general discussion because the question of salaries is bound up with the work of the probation officers themselves, the possibilities of that work and the service as a whole. If that were not so, how could one examine the question whether the additional salaries should be granted or not? It may be that the Home Office, instead of adopting these 947 salaries for a purpose which is desirable, may have decided that the money should be used for another purpose entirely.
§ Mr. Speaker
I was relying on the old practice in Supply which is set out in the latest edition of Erskine May, in page 738, where it is stated:If the sum demanded by a supplementary estimate is of the same order of magnitude as the original estimate, the chairman has allowed questions of policy to be raised upon it which would have been in order if it had been an original estimate; but if the supplementary estimate is merely to provide additional funds of a relatively moderate amount required in the normal course of working of the services for which the original vote was demanded, only the reasons for the increase can be discussed and not the policy implied in the service which must be taken to have been settled by the original vote.That is the position. I have no doubt that if the hon. Gentleman looks at the supplementary sum asked for, and compares it with the original sum which was voted, he will see that I could not rule that this supplementary sum is anything like the original sum.
§ Mr. Scholefield Allen
I thank the hon. Member for Leicester, North West (Mr. Janner) for his intervention. But I am sure, Mr. Speaker, that you will give me as much latitude as is possible within the rules of order. I was remarking that, although I was hoping to put a "new look" upon the service, I had had the benefit of the hon. Member for Battersea, South having communicated his views before it appeared that he was out of order.
There are many things which are in order on this Vote relating to salaries. I assume that what the salaries are and what the increase should be are matters which are in order. It is interesting to note that in the twenty-two years after the service was founded there were no less than three Departmental committees. In the last twenty-four years there has not been a Departmental committee at all. It is in relation to salaries that the advice of the new Departmental committee would be of the utmost value.
These salaries relate to men who have been in the service for many years. In the early years, as we have been reminded, the service was carried out almost entirely by untrained voluntary workers and they were paid so much per head per case. From that beginning, 948 the service has grown into what I would suggest is a great social service now comparable with the Health Service, functioning in a field where the casualties are great and where the need of help is also great. These are not the casualties that we deal with under the Health Service, but are all social casualties. Very important work is being done by the probation officers.
In 1922, it was said by the then Departmental committee that it was doubtful whether the service would attract candidates with a university education. When the service had been in existence for another fourteen years, in 1936, the Departmental committee which recommended the adoption of a training board not only changed the whole approach, but regarded a university training as essential. Perhaps the word "desirable" was used, but I am not sure on that point. In any case, there was a change of outlook.
Let me take, as an example, a salary about which I know, in a town where I have something to do with the probation service. The senior officer there, although senior in the department, is not graded as a senior officer. He is a lower grade senior officer and the total remuneration that he can receive is £865. That is for a man in a large Lancashire town who is working not a normal working day, but every evening, all day Saturday and all day Sunday. He does not regard this service as an ordinary piece of work, but as a vocation. I have seen his work, and I am very grateful for his work. I say without any hesitation that the members of this service are not being rewarded as they should be.
The increase which is asked for—I hope I am in order—should have been very much greater. I will not suggest to the Home Secretary that in giving 8.2 per cent. instead of 10 per cent. he was mean. That point could be argued. It is not a matter of adjusting the present salaries. They are all hopelessly wrong. We ought to make a completely new approach to these salaries. This can come only through a Departmental committee.
The other night the hon. and learned Gentleman, when challenged about this matter, said:I must remind him that recruitment for training receives the special attention of the Probation Advisory and Training Board, which 949 is composed of magistrates, justices' clerks, and representatives of the universities and of the probation service."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 13th March, 1958; Vol. 584, c. 779.]I do not know whether he seriously intended that to be an answer to the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Salford, West (Mr. Royle). He was asking for a completely new approach—not an approach by the body whose recommendations are based on the 1936 level.
In 1936, the probation service was considered. What was then thought, in view of the work that the probation officers did, was a reasonable salary level was fixed, and the salaries today are based on that 1936 review. There have been percentage increases during the war and cost of living bonuses, and these have been consolidated, but the whole fundamental basis of the approach to salaries is the 1936 approach. I am firmly of opinion that if we are to attract to the service the men we need, a totally new approach to salaries is essential.
I am told that one-third of the members of the probation service have some university training, but I am not sure what "university training" means. It is sometimes claimed that a person who gets a diploma, or half or even only one-quarter of a diploma, in social science has been university trained. Perhaps the Joint Under-Secretary can tell us how many of these men have a university degree. I do not regard a person who takes a short evening course at a university as university trained in the sense that we require university trained men for the probation service. I should be interested to know how many of the existing 13,000 officers——
§ The Joint Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. David Renton)
There are 1,300 officers.
§ Mr. Scholefield Allen
I should like to know how many of the 1,300 officers at present employed have had a university training in the real sense of the word.
The answer given by the hon. and learned Gentleman on Thursday does not meet the point that we are trying to make on behalf of the probation service, because that merely referred back to a body whose ideas are fixed on the 1936 level plus increases. Since then, probation officers have had a wide range of new responsibilities put upon them. My 950 hon. Friend the Member for Rossendale (Mr. Anthony Greenwood) referred to a number of onerous matters which have been put upon the probation service since those days, including the matrimonial conciliation service, involving 75,000 cases a year. Furthermore, the Wolfenden Report suggests that yet further duties should be placed upon probation officers, even in these difficult days.
§ Mr. Speaker
It is valid to make the general point that additional duties have been cast upon these officers with the passage of years, but I do not think it would be strictly in order to go in any detail into services such as matrimonial conciliation.
§ Mr. Scholefield Allen
I was hoping, Mr. Speaker, to be able to deal with one item which my hon. Friend the Member for Rossendale omitted. My hon. Friend the Member for Chesterfield (Sir G. Benson) is canvassing a Bill, to which I give warm support, whose purpose is to make of general application to adults the 1948 law that no young person should be sent to prison for a first offence unless no other remedy is available. This will represent yet another duty upon the probation officer.
I hope that my hon. Friend's Bill will be passed. When I sit in an official capacity, nothing shocks me more than to find somebody, whose criminal record by the time he comes before me is fairly long, who, from his very first offence, has been sent to prison. That means that the taint of prison is upon him and he goes back and back.
The real value to a judge, recorder or magistrate in having the probation service at his elbow is that he can keep people out of prison and free from the taint of prison. With the existing difficulty of getting adequate numbers of people for the service, we are inhibited from putting more work upon the probation officers. Knowing that instead of the 60 cases recommended as a case load, some of them are carrying 80 or 90 cases, one hesitates to put further burdens upon them.
951 It is useless to say that we have sufficient numbers of probation officers. Even when those under training are eventually added to the service—there are supposed to be about 70 or 80 coming in next year—no allowance is made for wastage. There is an almost equivalent wastage as a result of people leaving the service. If we do no more than make up the wastage each year, we shall not have the number of probation officers that we need.
I hope that we shall have an answer from the Home Office to the problem of recruitment and pay for this valuable service. It is much cheaper to the community to hand people over to the probation officer than to send them to prison. Probation is more valuable and is essentially cheaper. The more that we can extend probation successfully by having university trained officers, men of broad outlook and wide experience, the sooner we will be able to keep more people out of our prisons.
Section 77 (3) of the Criminal Justice Act, 1948 states thatThere shall be paid out of moneys provided by Parliament … towards the expenditure of any body or person approved by the Secretary of State in the conduct of research into the causes of delinquency and the treatment of offenders …such money as the Treasury may allow. So far, in a period of ten years, I believe that only £100,000 has been paid out for research. I suggest that if we cannot have a Departmental committee, the Home Secretary might consider the possibility of using Section 77 to get full statistics and a full examination of the probation service by a research body.
§ Mr. Speaker
I understand that research is not included in the Supplementary Estimate. It is dealt with in an entirely different Estimate.
§ Mr. Scholefield Allen
I rather suspected that, Mr. Speaker. I shall not try your patience any longer, but I hope that these observations will find warm acceptance by the Minister.
§ 4.28 p.m.
§ Mr. Montgomery Hyde (Belfast, North)
I am glad that there is agreement on both sides of the House that the probation service is a valuable organisation. I agree with most of what the hon. and learned Member for Crewe (Mr. Scholefield Allen) has said and I 952 sympathise with his difficulties in trying to touch upon certain points which are on the borderline or outside the bounds of order. I am sorry that we cannot discuss the desirability of research, because that would throw light on the question of the case load with which probation officers have to deal in their daily duties.
We are all agreed about the value of the probation service. We are proud that this country has been a pioneer in this work. It is something that last year probation celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of its coming into existence in this country. As we know, probation grew out of the old system of binding over, and it was natural that in the early days supervision should have been carried out by the police court missionaries. Many of these men had a deep sense of vocation, but it is inevitable that as their work grew there should be an increasing need for skilled guidance, and especially for training in case-work and in the scientific side of the problems of human behaviour.
There emerged, therefore, this special kind of trained workers whom we call probation officers and whose duty, as defined by statute, is to supervise those put under their care and to advise and assist and befriend them. In other words, and this is an essential feature of probation, the service provides for a positive attempt at re-education without committing the offender to an institution. Even in the best of institutions, conditions are bound to be in some measure unnatural and the problems facing the inmates are not always those of the outside world.
The great merit of probation is that it leaves the delinquent in his ordinary environment. As the hon. and learned Member for Crewe has reminded us, probation is a much cheaper form of treatment than any institutional method, and it has been abundantly justified by the results. But a strain is now being put upon the service. There are at present about 60,000 men, women and juveniles under the supervision of probation officers. About half of that number are adults, and by no means all of them are first offenders. The service has grown immeasurably over the past 20 years. In 1936, it consisted of fewer than 400 officers, of whom only a handful had university training. Now there are nearly 1,400 officers, of whom many have had university training. Whether 953 the training has involved a degree or a diploma it certainly has been some form of higher education.
The additional duties which have been placed upon the probation officer in recent years include the after-care of ex-prisoners and Borstal inmates, and also the work of matrimonial reconciliation on which a great deal of time is spent. There is some doubt as to what is the actual average case load, but the figure that has been suggested, if we are to strike an average, is 60 cases for the male probation officer and 40 cases for the female probation officer. Whatever it is, there is no doubt that these men and women are working under considerable pressure, as the Home Secretary has recognised.
We have been told that the shortage of staff is between 70 and 80. That is the official figure given by the Home Secretary, but it is not in accordance with what Mr. Dawtry, the General Secretary of the National Association of Probation Officers, has stated. He puts the shortage as between 100 and 200. Pay has improved compared with what it was in pre-war days, but the maximum basic pay for the probation officer, except in a few of the big areas, is still only £860 a year.
It should be remembered that the probation officer works long and irregular hours, including at least two or three evenings a week and also Saturdays and Sundays, in addition to the usual office hours, and there is no overtime or extra allowanceexcept for subsistence when unusually detained.I believe that the senior and principal probation officers, whose cases have already been mentioned by the hon. Member for Rossendale (Mr. Anthony Greenwood), have some cause for grievance at the reduction of the amount recommended by the Industrial Court. A sum of £4,500 a year is not very great when set against what it costs to maintain one or two boys in a Borstal institution.
In answer to a recent Question about vacancies in the probation service, the Home Secretary said:When these vacancies are filled, as I hope they may be within the next year or two, the Service should be well equipped to meet the demands made upon it by a progressive policy 954 of penal reform."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 13th February, 1958; Vol. 582, c. 81.]I certainly share my right hon. Friend's hope, but I do not think that the recruits are coming forward for the service in the numbers which I should like to see and which I think are desirable in the public interest and in the interest of the reduction of crime and the treatment of offenders.
Notwithstanding the fact that it is essentially a vocational service, I hope that steps will be taken to make the service a little more financially attractive. I hope that, at the same time, more will be done than has been done in the past to put over or to sell to the public the idea that probation work is a modern social service which is just as important in its way as the Health Service and other social services.
Finally. I should like to emphasise a point which has been touched upon already, namely, that with the present trend of policy in the courts in the imposition of sentences, more and more demands are likely to be made in the immediate future on the probation service. The First Offenders Bill, to which I was very glad to give my support, is now before the House and we have also the recommendations of the Home Office Advisory Committee on the Treatment of Offenders, which must affect the work of the probation service. The existing probation officers cannot increase their present average case loads without impairing, perhaps seriously, the quality of the work when judged by results; and a good probation officer cannot be produced overnight. I think that the money represented in this Supplementary Estimate is well spent and will justify itself many times over by results.
§ 4.40 p.m.
§ Mr. Charles Royle (Salford, West)
A few days ago I had the opportunity of raising the whole question of the probation service in a very general sense, even though the debate was limited to a short time on the Adjournment. This afternoon, therefore, I should like to do what I was not able to do the other night, try to concentrate on the question of the salaries of probation officers as laid down in the Supplementary Estimate now before the House.
In so doing, I want to argue that the sum mentioned in the Supplementary 955 Estimate is quite insufficient for the purpose of the probation service if it is to be as efficient as we want it to be. As has already been stated, the Joint Negotiating Committee which deals with the probation officer service has been looking at the question of salaries for a long time, and, after many months of deliberation, has come forward with recommendations.
The Home Secretary, in his wisdom, accepted the recommendation for what are called ordinary probation officers, but did not see fit to fully accept the recommendation for chief officers. He cut down the recommended increase of 10 per cent. to 8.2 per cent. I have said before, and I have no hesitation in saying again, that I regard this as a very mean action.
I know that, in answer to Questions, the Home Secretary at that time said that this was part of the Government's policy of economy, and that in view of rising costs it was necessary that great care should be taken when suggestions were made for increases of salary for anyone in the public service. This, in effect, was the Government's example to industry.
It seems to me to be completely ridiculous that the Home Office, to make a contribution to that policy, should deal with a sum of only £4,500, and, in so doing, I say without hesitation, insult a group of men and women who are doing a great job of work. It seems to me to be utterly ridiculous that a sum of only £4,500 is involved in the difference whether the full award is given or not.
Following the Home Secretary's decision on the award, the Manchester Guardian, on 31st January, in its leading article, said:The Home Secretary has imposed what amounts to a collective fine on senior and principal officers in the probation service which amply merits the dignified protest that the general-secretary of their association made yesterday.The leading article also says:The Minister, through his Department, is represented by the official nominees on the negotiating committee; if, as in this case, they are outvoted, is it fair to upset a majority finding by edict? The Government is properly concerned to secure restraint in wage and salary increases, but to do so by dishonouring negotiated settlements strikes at the very root of 956 voluntary collective bargaining. What is the point of bargaining at all if the Government cannot be trusted to keep a bargain?I am suggesting that nothing could be more niggardly than what has taken place so far as chief probation officers are concerned, and I would have liked to have seen a much higher figure in the Supplementary Estimates.
It is quite impossible to separate the question of salaries from that of recruitment. We shall not recruit an adequate probation service unless the salaries are a much greater attraction than those offered at present, and when one of the previous Departmental committees talked about university training and, in addition, training at the Home Office itself, it seems to be extraordinary that we should be thinking in terms of salaries as we know them at present.
It has been said several times from both sides of the House that the time has come when a Departmental committee should consider these matters. A Departmental committee would consider only the question of salaries, but the whole basis is wrong. I know from friends of mine who are members of the Joint Negotiating Committee that they themselves are completely dissatisfied with the basis. As my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Crewe (Mr. Scholefield Allen) said, the increases which have taken place have been increases in bonuses because of the rise in the cost of living. We have now reached the stage when, with the tremendous increase which has taken place in the work of the probation officers, there has to be a completely new basis where their salaries are concerned.
My hon. Friend the Member for Rossendale (Mr. Greenwood), in answer to a question earlier, said that the chief probation officer in charge of an area with a population of 2½ million people can rise to a salary of only £1,560. In the light of these responsibilities, and of the work which such people are doing, I suggest that that figure is now out of tune with what we believe should be paid in the probation service.
In Lancashire, at present, a great deal of trouble has been aroused because the Home Office has introduced, or is proposing to introduce, a new system in the county whereby local probation committees will not have so much control over their own officers. That proposal 957 is entirely due to the fact that it is impossible to recruit sufficient probation officers to carry out the work in the county under the present system. I am submitting that if the salaries of probation officers were higher, recruitment would be better, and that the problem we see at the moment would not exist.
In answer to a question in debate recently the Joint Under-Secretary said that the Home Office envisaged an increase of between 70 to 80 probation officers. That is ridiculous in the light of the weight of work now put upon their shoulders, and I suggest that the hon. and learned Gentleman must think in very different terms altogether. Had the Home Office done so some months ago, we should not have been discussing £90,000 now; we should be discussing a figure very much higher indeed.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Sir Charles MacAndrew)
Order. There is no room in the Supplementary Estimate for those who have not yet joined the service.
§ Mr. Royle
I am aware of that, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, and I was using my last sentence in a retrospective way. I was hoping that, even with you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, I could have got away with it. I recognise the narrowness of this debate, and I realise that we can only discuss the question of salaries.
I shall not offend any further in that respect, but I very strongly support all that has been said this afternoon. The time has come when, seeing that we have not had one since 1936 and remembering the added burden since that time, a Departmental committee should be set up so that recruitment, and salaries, which are most important of all, shall be tackled on a new basis. I hope that the Joint Under-Secretary will be able to give me a little more satisfaction today than he was able to give me the other night.
§ 4.50 p.m.
§ Colonel Richard H. Glyn (Dorset, North)
Though I agree with a lot that has been said in the debate, I cannot agree with all of it. I yield to no one in my admiration for the work done by the probation service, and I strongly support the Supplementary Estimate, which will enable rather higher salaries to be paid. Goodness knows, I am sure that 958 they are earned. I quite agree that the probation service is as important as the Health Service, only it deals with social casualties as opposed to medical ones.
Before I came to the House I had been on a probation committee, and from my experience I am sure that the difficulties in the south of England are less than have been represented. It is not so long since my own county committee advertised for a probation officer, and I was struck not only by the number who applied for the post but by their high quality.
It has been said, quite rightly, that a university degree in social science is extremely desirable. On the other hand, I think that as far as probation workers are concerned it is absolutely essential that they should be people capable of winning the confidence of the offenders. That is absolutely necessary for, without that, they can achieve nothing.
§ Mr. Scholefield Allen
Is the hon. and gallant Gentleman not aware of a fact which is present in all kinds of applications for professional workers, namely, that it is much easier to get people to come to the south of England, which is pleasanter to live in than in the industrial North and that the industrial North experiences difficulties which do not exist in the South? For instance, the south of England is not under-doctored and, in the same way, not under-probation-officered.
§ Colonel Glyn
I have heard inhabitants of the north of England take a very contrary view to that and support their part of the country very strongly against the rival attractions of the South.
I am sure that these probation workers are dedicated men and women who do not count the halfpence. They are on call day and night, and they know that when they take the post.
It is not only a question of the case load. There are other considerations. There is, if I may so express it, the question of the difficulty of the cases referred to them. If for no other reason, they deserve an increase in salary, because I believe that they are getting more difficult cases today than they did in the past.
I wish particularly to stress the difficulty that arises from the cases of juveniles who are now so often referred 959 to probation workers. I saw the report of a probation officer on a case of this nature in which she referred to the juveniles concerned as being "like mad things. Once they have made up their minds to do something nothing will stop them." Of course, the difficulty is that the probation officer's duty is to stop them. That is what he or she is supposed to do.
This sort of case adds very greatly to the amount of work and difficulty of a probation worker. It counts as only one case, but it is much more difficult than any normal case. The difficulty involved in these juvenile cases is very great indeed. It is sometimes attributed to earlier maturity or to lack of discipline in the home. I believe that in the old days we were mostly brought up on the lines of "do as you would be done by" at our mother's knee, and, if that failed, of being "done by as you did" across our father's knee. I think that that system worked fairly well, but it seems to have broken down.
In a great number of cases which come before the courts, the magistrates have little option but to put the offenders on probation and to place them in the care of these devoted workers in the probation service who have the very thankless task of persuading these young people to rethink their whole way of life. Many of these convicted juveniles have got completely out of hand and have become well on the way to taking up criminal careers. No one but a probation officer can talk them out of this state of mind.
Probation officers have a very greatly increased pressure placed upon them today not only because of the increase in the case load, but because of the increased difficulty of some of the cases which they are asked to undertake. These people are doing wonderful work and have a surprisingly high proportion of successes. I have not seen the latest figures, but I know that in my own county the proportion of successes of the probation workers is really very creditable indeed. I think that the nation owes them a great debt of gratitude.
For all these reasons, I most warmly support the proposed increase in salaries which will be made possible by the Supplementary Estimate.
§ 4.57 p.m.
§ Mr. James MacColl (Widnes)
My hon. Friend the Member for Rossendale (Mr. Anthony Greenwood) reminded the House of the procedure which was adopted in reaching the agreement about the increases in salary for senior and principal probation officers which form the major part of this Supplementary Estimate. My hon. Friend also reminded the House of the constitution of the negotiating committee. I am bound to say that I have never felt very happy about its constitution and I rather wonder what was behind the Minister's decision not to accept the full award as made and to reduce it.
My hon. Friend further reminded the House that on what one might call the employer's side of the Joint Negotiating Committee there are representatives of the local authorities, of the Home Office and of the magistrates. The representatives of the magistrates are really the only people who have a direct knowledge of the actual work being done by probation officers. They are the only people who have practical knowledge of the work of the men and women whose duty it is to help and advise them in the difficult task that they have to discharge.
The magistrates who sit on the Joint Negotiating Committee are in a very difficult position. It looks as if they are not able to get all that they would like in the way of better conditions for the probation workers who, as we know, were in a hopeless minority on the committee. Therefore, the last thing I would expect would be that any award recommended by that committee would be too extravagant, and I am baffled to understand why the right hon. Gentleman felt it necessary to reduce the award in the way he did.
It seems that a recommendation put forward by people who have, at any rate to some extent, some knowledge of what is involved in the work of probation officers is being disregarded not on any real assessment of the work which they are doing, but on purely financial grounds. The whole thing seems to be a sort of shadowy dance which takes place when everyone knows that the real decision is to be taken not, one suspects, by the right hon. Gentleman, but by the Treasury, which is not even represented on the Joint Negotiating Committee. 961 That places the magistrates in a very embarrassing position because they are the people who have to bear the brunt of the heavy case loads, of the lack of the best-qualified officers and of the departure from the service of some of the most experienced people.
I have very little patience with people who manage to get high-souled about other people's vocations. It is always a very feeble argument to say that someone else ought to have a sufficient sense of vocation not to expect a decent salary for the job. One may have a feeling of vocation in one's own job. That is a different thing. One may be, as, perhaps, Members of Parliament are, prepared to work for less than what they estimate is their full worth, but it is not our job or that of the Home Office to say that because probation officers have a sense of vocation they ought to accept salary increases which are below a reasonable and fair amount. That is what is happening at the moment, however.
What happens in this profession as in all other professions is that when one is young and without many responsibilities one does not mind doing an interesting job for a very low salary, but the time comes when a man gets family responsibilities, and, of course, the senior officers are the people most likely to have those family responsibilities. There comes a time when every man has to ask himself a very serious question—whether he ought to continue in a profession which is not offering adequate emoluments for the more responsible positions to which he can hope to advance and whether he ought, before he is too old, to look out for another job which will be more remunerative. That is what has been happening amongst probation officers, and amongst the most valuable people.
It is no answer merely to quote figures about the total amount of recruitment and the total amount of wastage, and so on, because they conceal the fact that the numbers are very often kept up by the bringing in of people who are inexperienced and many of whom are not adequately trained. Whether or not they are adequately trained, no amount of training can take the place of experience. What the courts need is a reasonable number of senior officers in senior positions to give advice to their junior 962 colleagues and to give advice to the courts in difficult cases, and we can get them only if we are prepared to pay a reasonable amount.
It seems to me shocking that the Home Secretary should take this attitude after there has been a negotiation by a body which is not over-prejudiced in favour of making an increase to probation officers—because it is not telling a secret out of school to say that the local authorities' representatives are not likely to encourage increases in the probation service salaries when they know that those will have a reflection upon the claims, perhaps, of welfare workers in children's departments. If the logic of the situation compels a committee to reach an agreement that the salaries should be increased, the Home Secretary by his unilateral action, in the suggestion he put forward, seems to me to be not only rather churlish but to be endangering the whole of the service. This calls for a very serious explanation.
As a Lancastrian Member of the House and a London magistrate I can hold the balance between my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Crewe (Mr. Scholefield Allen) and the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Dorset, North (Colonel R. H. Glyn), and I can only say that in London certainly we have lost probation officers who have gone to far more congenial areas where the cost of living is lower. Men who have got to the age when they have to consider, for instance, the education of their children tend to move out of London because the cost of living is so high and to go to areas where they can live at a lower rate and in more congenial conditions, perhaps near a school to which they can send their children. That is probably the reason why the hon. and gallant Gentleman finds he can get all the probation officers he wants. We in London certainly do not find that.
I would support the appeal which has been made for the setting up of a Departmental committee to look into the whole question of the status of the probation officer and his relationships with other services and with other wings of other branches of the administration of justice. It seems very strange that the ordinary working of the probation service was not included in the terms of reference of the Ingleby Committee; and therefore that 963 Committee, presumably, will not be able to make a comprehensive review of the work the probation officer is doing. If that is so, as I think it is, surely the right hon. Gentleman should recognise the need to have some other committee prepared to look not just at the methods of training in isolation, or merely at the immediate problems, but to take a broad view of the whole working of probation and the whole problem of the position probation officers occupy in comparison with officers of other services, because, after all, the probation officer comes in contact with children's officers, with the police, and so on, and he ought to be in a comparable position, with comparable status. That is a problem to which a Departmental committee might very well devote its attention.
Part of this Supplementary Estimate is for premises, and I should like to have some indication from the Joint Under-Secretary of State whether there is to be, as we hope, improvement in the premises provided. Or is this Supplementary Estimate merely to meet increases in rents? Does this increase mean that the Home Office is taking some steps forward in the provision of premises for officers? Some of the premises are really extremely shoddy and quite unworthy of the work which probation officers are asked to do.
A boy or girl coming, as many of the children do, from a poor home and very bad conditions comes to see the probation officer who represents the court, who has the authority of the court behind him. Prestige counts for quite a bit, and it is desirable that the boy or girl should see the probation officer in surroundings which are clean and comfortable, reasonably warm and properly lighted, and so on. It is not for us to ask officers to deal with probationers in conditions which are exceedingly squalid. I am certain that if the hon. and learned Gentleman were to make a survey of some of the working conditions of probation officers he would find they are deplorable. Therefore, I hope he will be able to say something about how this extra money is being used and that it is for the improvement of premises.
The only other matter I would ask about is that part of the Supplementary Estimate which deals with homes and hostels. Again, does this mean that there is to be an increase in the supply of 964 probation hostels? There is at present a very serious lack of these premises, especially in the places where they are most needed, that is, outside the big towns, in the smaller towns and country areas.
The whole point of a probation hostel is that it is the place to which we want to send a probationer in order to get him away from a bad environment. If there is a long waiting list for probation hostels their whole value is destroyed. What is the use of a court's saying to a probation officer, "Your report says this boy ought to be removed from the environment in which he is living and that he ought to be got away from his home for a bit. Can you find him a place in a hostel?" if the court is told that the earliest vacancy that can be got is in three or four months' time? Then, because of the wholly and unnecessarily inadequate provision of hostels, either the boy can be committed only to an approved school, or alternatively be left at home in the very environment from which it is considered he ought to be removed.
I should like to know from the Joint Under-Secretary of State, in view of the Estimate we are being asked to approve, what the prospects are for the provision of these hostels. What is the likelihood that there will be such extensions of the service that there will not be waiting lists so that within a reasonable time it will be possible to get a probationer away from home quickly? I suggest that the value of probation as a solution to the problem is to act quickly when we have to act. If the situation is one in which it is necessary to get somebody away from his home conditions it is really very frightening if one has then to sit back and watch deterioration take place, and breaches of the probation occur, which it was anticipated would occur if there were not immediate action, simply because the Home Office has not discharged the function laid upon it by Parliament to see that there is adequate provision for probation homes and hostels. I hope that the hon. and learned Gentleman will say something about that which will be of comfort to all of us.
§ 5.9 p.m.
§ Mr. Peter Rawlinson (Epsom)
I certainly support the request for this additional provision required to meet increases of salaries and maintenance 965 costs, and I do so for the reasons set out by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Dorset, North (Colonel R. H. Glyn), and also because I support what has been said by some hon. Gentlemen opposite. I say that with some hesitation, because the last time I supported something said by some hon. Gentlemen opposite the Government were immediately defeated in the Lobby. Though I accept a great deal of what hon. Gentlemen opposite have said and though I appreciate the great concern they feel. I think that some of them have put their case a little too high.
I appreciate that everybody wants general economy, but when we come to their special interests they want increased expenditure. I believe that this is increased expenditure from which every citizen in the country will benefit. We have come a long way since the early days of the probation service, but sometimes the reports are rather unrealistic. I heard of the case of a girl who had been savagely attacked by three young men. When the judge read the report of the probation officer on the first boy, it started with the words, "This likeable lad …"
It is clear that we need a sense of reality in our probation officers, and I think we get it. We also need an appreciation of what punishment can do. We also need, and get, a sense of humanity, which we find in all the courts and which is so impressive when probation officers give their evidence. It is always a pleasure to hear this in the courts of assize and quarter sessions, as well as in the magistrates' courts, to which they afford so much assistance.
I appreciate that salaries play a great part and I urge with diffidence that the salary position should be reviewed. On the other hand, it is true to say that this profession is a vocation, as is shown by the tolerance and patience exercised by women probation officers in the juvenile courts. Indeed, the confidence generally felt in them by all branches of the legal profession is a high tribute to the profession.
Although I hope it will be possible to increase the remuneration of these officers, 11 think that in certain circumstances the work could be made easier. Certain branches of the criminal law—the Vagrancy Act of 1824 and the Criminal 966 Justice Act, 1948, particularly Section 460 (5) about which I have put down a Question—could assist the work of probation officers. It would assist the officer concerned if the same court dealt with an offender who committed a further offence, so that he did not have to make his report to the court which has passed sentence for the further offence and then have to return to the court which originally put the man on probation.
A fruitful field of recruitment for probation officers might be found in those leaving the Services in the near future. I have discussed this point with my hon. and learned Friend the Joint Under-Secretary of State. I am thinking of men with experience of handling others, of discipline, of sensibility, men to whom young people will look up and whom they will respect. Hon. Members who are politicians perhaps spend their time surrounded only by honourable and honest men, but those who see the types of prisoner continually coming before the criminal courts will appreciate that a probation officer must be a man of authority.
A man with a distinguished service record, who will be regarded as being as tough as they are, is the type I have in mind. Let there be no doubt about the toughness of the problem which many probation officers have to meet. While we salute them for the task they do, we must not forget the ugliness of much of the material with which they have to deal and the real threat to society represented by these young offenders.
Therefore, I suggest to my hon. and learned Friend this fruitful field of recruitment from officers who have retired on pension, who could be selected because of their vocational desire to assist in this way. This would reinforce the service and it would not be a great financial burden upon the community. In conclusion, I support strongly what so many hon. Members have said today and I add my personal tribute to these distinguished men and women.
§ 5.16 p.m.
Mr. Barnett Danner (Leicester, North-West)
I am a little worried about the point made by the hon. Member for Epsom (Mr. Rawlinson). It is obvious that when we are dealing with the question of salaries we should consider whether they are being paid to the right 967 persons and whether they are adequate. I have had some experience of this subject in a professional capacity, but with a different approach from that of the hon. Gentleman. If he will reconsider what he has suggested, I believe he will come to the conclusion that training in the Forces is hardly the best for the position of a probation officer. I do not say for a moment that there are not many who could be trained later to deal with these problems satisfactorily, but I doubt whether the fact that a man has left the Army in itself qualifies him for the delicate and important job of looking after people referred to the probation service for help.
§ Mr. Rawlinson
I am obliged to the hon. Gentleman. What I meant to convey was that there are many men who have retired from the Services, and who have had experience in man management who could play a useful part in dealing with a type of criminal we meet today. I do not mean everyone, but I would have thought this a fruitful field from which to find men to assist in this important service.
§ Mr. Janner
I am sorry, but I still beg to differ from the point of view of the hon. Gentleman. I admit that this might be possible in the case of a man who has to deal with a pretty tough customer, but he would hardly come within the provisions adumbrated by the Probation of Offenders Act. However, I do not want to go further into that point, because there may be many men who could be trained for this purpose on leaving the Services. The important thing is the training.
Has full consideration been given to the type of training undergone by those for whom the grant is intended an those to whom the increase is expected to act as an inducement? This is one of our most important social services. Its potentialities are wide and give an opportunity to rehabilitate people who have drifted and who, but for the probation service, would find themselves in that serious position in which so many others found themselves before the service was introduced.
I can remember the case of a person who was first sent to prison for having stolen an apple and who then drifted into a life of crime because he had been sent to prison. This case happened many years ago when there was no probation service 968 and the man in question led a life of crime in consequence of the penalty imposed for that one slip. Later, when he asked me to defend him in respect of an offence he had committed, he said that although he had been in prison for many years, if the magistrates on that occasion would deal with his case as though it were a first offence under the Probation of offenders Act, he would turn over a new leaf. I am happy to say that, in spite of all the sentences which he had suffered, the magistrates took that merciful view and, as far as I know, that man who was a criminal for many years did not revert to crime. That incident in some way indicates the importance of the service with which we are dealing.
If the £90,000 will meet the real needs, then it should be granted so that the present officers of the service will be satisfied and so that the additional expenditure will act as an inducement to others. That is the purpose of the additional grant, to pay the individuals who need it and to act as an inducement so that others will think that the service is worth while.
Anyone who knows the probation officers service and the wonderful work which is done will agree that those who enter it very often do so at considerable sacrifice to themselves and mainly for humanitarian reasons. Some officers may not come up to the mark, but it would not be natural to expect a service of that sort to be perfect throughout. However, the vast majority of the men and women of the probation service are devoted people, anxious to do good and who enter the service irrespective of the insufficiency of the salary.
However, that is not entirely all that we need. The hon. Member for Epsom has fallen into the error of believing that if a man is prepared to render a particular kind of service, he can do it. With the best intentions in the world, there are people who want to do work of this nature but who are not adaptable or sufficiently trained for the purpose. Is the hon. and learned Gentleman satisfied that the salary increase will attract men and women of the highest quality? All sorts of people read and respond to advertisements for new officers, goodhearted and good-natured people, but incapable of fulfilling the required duties.
People like that may be excellent men and women, but I contend that to be 969 probation officers requires skilled service. In the course of their daily work, they handle very difficult and intimate personal problems, not only problems concerning delinquents and their families, but problems involving matrimonial conciliation work and duties in connection with adoption proceedings and matters of that sort.
I do not know whether this extra money will affect that position. Will it avoid the appointment of untrained persons who will appear in court on the first day of that appointment on the same standing and with the same responsibility and salary scale as a trained and experienced officer? I am not saying that the service should be constituted entirely of university graduates, but people dealing with these matters, particularly young officers, should have a social science training at least so that they understand all the complexities of the problems with which they have to deal.
I understand that there are two-year diploma courses—not degree courses—that these are open to people with no particular academic or educational qualification, and to those who have already worked in industrial, commercial, business, professional, or Service life. I am not sure whether those courses are open to people of all ages, but certainly they are open to younger people.
I believe that several years ago the official representative body of the probation officers submitted a document on this subject to the Home Secretary's Advisory and Training Board. Do the people to whom the new salaries are to be paid have either an appropriate degree or a university social science diploma, or are they able and willing to obtain such qualifications? Have they completed at least one year in industrial, commercial, business, professional or Service life? That was the requirement suggested by these very experienced officers for future entrants to the service. Will the £90,000 relate to men within those categories?
The hon. and learned Gentleman may say that because of the shortage of candidates he has had to broaden entry into the service and give entrants some kind of training over two or three months. That will not do. The recruiting situation is now easier than it was a few months ago. We are told by the Home 970 Secretary that there are now about seventy or eighty vacancies and that when these have been filled the service will be able to carry on its work properly. I agree with the representations of the probation officers that that is a false picture and that even if the service is brought up to the established strength those in it will be badly over-worked. It is a well-informed view that there should be at least 100 additional officers.
Many extra duties have been placed upon probation officers in recent years, and the incidence of crime is higher than it has been for many years. It may be suggested that this will disappear when the wartime population bulge passes, but it is not entirely accounted for by youth and children. Furthermore, since the probation service is better trained and better qualified than ever before, the consequences are not that more cases may come its way, but that courts are now placing on probation more difficult types of offenders in respect of whom personal and emotional complications have to be sorted out. Today, probation officers are used as experts, even in the higher courts
I should like to give one example to illustrate my claim that £90,000 is a small increase of salaries in respect of this service. A short time ago, in the Court of Criminal Appeal, the Lord Chief Justice reduced a sentence of eight years' preventive detention to one of two years' probation. There are other examples of the use of the probation service by High Court judges in cases which a few years ago would never have been considered for probation. Case loads are high, and even if the service were fully manned and they were lower it would only mean that probation officers would have the opportunity of doing more intensive work, in some cases which today have to be allowed to lapse or be given much less attention than is needed.
This situation causes anxiety to probation officers. The Minister knows of it from personal experience. It is not a question of our having to appeal to an individual who is dissociated from the subject matter being discussed. The hon and learned Gentleman has had a fair amount of experience in the courts, and he knows the importance of this very great work. I appeal to him and to his right hon. Friend the Home Secretary— 971 who also has a considerable understanding of these matters—to realise that in their hands lies the possibility of carrying out work whose importance to the nation cannot be over-estimated. The probation service requires skilled people, and also people with heart, understanding and noble ideas and ideals. These are difficult things to bring together, but in my view neither of these qualifications is sufficient without the other. We must show that we regard this as a worthwhile service.
So much for the service itself. I hope that the appeal made to the Minister about the salaries of the highest officials in the service will be regarded in the proper light. These people should receive remuneration consistent with that of the lawyers, the medical people and the psychiatrists who play a part in the work of the courts. They are people in whose hands lie the destiny of men and women requiring expert treatment.
It is true that the accommodation of probation officers does not fit the purpose of the service. It needs offices which impress the delinquents who come before probation officers. Many of these people commit offences which we may have committed in our youth without having been discovered or, having been discovered, were let off with a warning or something a little more effective in the way of physical action on the part of a parent. The effectiveness of the treatment depends to some extent upon the atmosphere into which these people are brought. It is necessary that a person who acts on behalf of the delinquent shall be able to commend the advice which the probation service——
§ Mr. Janner
The words "official accommodation" are to be found in Subhead B.1. The Subhead deals with the maintenance costs of official accommodation, and it is to be found on page 54. I hope that a substantial proportion of the Estimate will be spent upon this official accommodation, because of the circumstances in which probation officers carry on their work.
§ Mr. Janner
It comes under the heading "Probation of Offenders, &c." Subhead B.1 reads:Grants towards the expenses of probation: Additional provision required to meet increases in salaries, and in maintenance costs of official accommodation, &c…
§ Mr. Janner
That is the point to which I was directing my few remarks.
My hon. Friends and hon. Members opposite have dealt with other matters concerning this service, and I need hardly say that I fully agree with most of what they have said. This is a noble occupation, which impresses us all. I hope that the debate which has taken place will induce the Minister not only to be thankful that he has asked for £90,000, but to resolve that at some future time he will present a very much larger Estimate. If he does I can assure him that he will have very little opposition.
§ 5.40 p.m.
§ The Joint Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. David Renton)
As was said by the hon. Member for Leicester. North-West (Mr. Janner) this Supplementary Estimate covers a small amount, but by the skill of hon. Members and the indulgence of the Chair the discussion on it has been wide.
The Supplementary Estimate is for £90,000 over and above the sum of £920,000 in the original Estimate of last year. The total sum includes £55,000 for increased salaries for probation officers. A further sizeable sum, I am glad to say, is due to increased recruitment; in other words, there are more officers to be paid.
The rest is taken up by various miscellaneous matters, of which accommodation is one. It has been said that probation officers have to work in unsuitable offices. We agree that there is scope for improvement, but improvement is taking place all the time, and the greater part of the sum in this Supplementary Estimate for accommodation relates to repairs and maintenance.
Before dealing with the matter which has loomed largest in this debate, I wish 973 to endorse the many apt phrases used sincerely by hon. Members when paying tributes to the work of probation officers. The service has been described as a devoted service, a modern social service, a service in which the probation officers are following a real vocation. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Dorset, North (Colonel R. H. Glyn) who, I understand, was speaking in a home affairs debate for the first time, referred so fittingly to probation officers as dedicated workers. My right hon. Friend values the work which they do and the way in which they do it.
A great many facts on the question of pay have been stated by hon. Gentlemen, but in my view the essential facts are these. An Industrial Court award was made in May, 1957, in which was recommended an increase of 8.2 per cent. for those at the top of the scale and 18.6 per cent. for those at the bottom, to operate from 1st January, 1957. For all ordinary officers, as they are technically termed—though I do not like the expression, because I do not regard probation officers as ordinary people—there was no dispute about this. They were awarded what the Industrial Court recommended.
The Joint Negotiating Committee was then asked to consider the position of those in the supervisory grades, and on 16th October, 1957, it recommended that people in those grades, instead of 8.2 per cent., should have an increase of 10 per cent. My right hon. Friend's award of 8.2 per cent., dated 29th January, 1958, related back to 1st January, 1957, and affected 185 people. It would have cost about £4,000 more to have paid an increase of 10 per cent.
I do not depart from the reasons which I stated in the Adjournment debate the other night. My right hon. Friend considered this matter most carefully, and reluctantly came to the conclusion that in the present economic and financial circumstances there was no reason that he could see for going beyond the 8.2 per cent. that he originally recommended. My right hon. Friend wishes me to say that, obviously, this is a matter which must receive attention as time goes on. Fortunately, there is nothing final about these matters. But for the time being, at any rate, we must make it abundantly plain that in our opinion the increase of 8.2 per cent., following as it did the last 974 increase in March, 1956, is appropriate in the circumstances.
There was a certain amount of confusion about the scale of salaries and it may help if I mention what they are as a result of these increases. For ordinary officers they range from £575 to £860. The hon. and learned Member for Crewe (Mr. Scholefield Allen) mentioned the case of a man who, in his opinion, was not receiving enough, but this man was getting the very award which had been agreed by the Joint Negotiating Committee. Of the supervisory officers, senior officers get £865, rising to £1,030. Principal officers, of whom there are seven grades, get from £1,005 to £1,730.
A question closely linked with that of pay is recruitment and strength generally. It may interest the House to have the latest figures. The number of ordinary probation officers is now 1,120. an increase of over 5 per cent. in the past twelve months. During 1957, 100 new appointments were made and there was a wastage of 40. During 1957, we recruited over 100 people for the training scheme for full-time probation work, a very considerable rise on previous years. The training is from one year to three years, according to what is needed, and I will deal with that further in a moment. We are hoping, as a result of recruitment in the last three years, that there will be about 70 probation officers coming out of training this year to fill vacancies.
I was asked by the hon. and learned Member for Crewe about the possession of university qualifications. There are about 400 out of a total of over 1,300 probation officers with university qualifications of some kind. About 50 have university degrees, not merely diplomas but degrees. There was a dispute between my hon. Friend the Member for Epsom (Mr. Rawlinson) and the hon. Member for Leicester, North-West about the suitability of former Army officers and other Service officers for probation work. There are already a noticeable number of Army officers doing probation work. I think that 11 were recruited last year. The hon. Member for Leicester, North-West was good enough to refer to my experience in the courts in this matter. Like him, I have seen probation officers at work, and I have seen Army officers doing probation work extremely well.
975 The hon. Gentleman has had Service experience himself, as well as being a lawyer, and it surprised me that he should cast doubt upon the suitability of officers for this work, because a great deal of their work in the Services might be described as welfare work.
§ Mr. Janner
I am fully aware that there are many ex-officers who are quite suitable for this kind of work, but I gathered that the hon. and learned Gentleman was saying that this occupation was particularly suitable for officers as such. I doubt whether that would be correct.
§ Mr. Renton
I am glad that the hon. Member was not condemning the principle of having officers from the Services, who can be most helpful.
Officers from the Army applying for probation work will have to undergo training, the length of which will depend upon the nature of their experience, as with other applicants. A Departmental committee to go into these matters was suggested by some hon. Members, but I think that I should be exceeding the Supplementary Estimate if I replied, reluctant as I am to appear to evade the questions. This is clearly not a matter that can be suitably discussed on this occasion.
The hon. Member for Rossendale (Mr. Anthony Greenwood), who opened the debate in a very fair and full way, although I did not agree with all that he said about pay, asked me whether the increased expenditure was due to increased caseload or to extension of the functions of the probation service. The caseload has been increasing steadily in recent years. From the figures, it is clear that the average is about 50 per probation officer, but I do not think that figure means very much. There are probation officers in outlying areas who have a very small case load, while those in urban areas are very well over what is considered the desirable maximum of sixty, especially in London, in the outer London area and in parts of Lancashire.
§ Mr. Scholefield Allen
As the hon. and learned Gentleman is not replying to the request which came from all parts of the House for a Departmental committee—perhaps it is not possible for him to reply within the terms of order—could he say 976 whether his right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, who is on the Government Front Bench, would be prepared to receive a deputation from both sides of the House to urge upon him the necessity that we have all expressed without exception for a Departmental committee?
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
As the Minister said, the question of a Departmental committee was out of order on the Supplementary Estimate, so that I hope that the Minister will not answer that question.
§ Mr. Scholefield Allen
I did not ask for an answer on the question of the Departmental committee, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, but on whether the Minister would convey an invitation to the Home Secretary.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
As the right hon. Gentleman is present, he can hear the invitation for himself.
§ Mr. Renton
I shall have great pleasure in telling my right hon. Friend what the hon. and learned Gentleman has said. My right hon. Friend is a very ready listener to all matters affecting this House.
In my own poor way, I have answered the points which were raised in the debate and which fell within the Supplementary Estimate. A number of other points were raised which I feel it would not be in order for me to answer. Hon. Gentlemen who put them were, perhaps, lucky to get them out of their mouths before being stopped by the Chair. This has been a very useful debate. My right hon. Friend and I will take good note of the points made. I would once more repeat that the probation service is most valuable and that we must do all we can to encourage it in the future.
§ Mr. Gordon Walker (Smethwick)
Is it not a reflection on the Chair for the Joint Under-Secretary of State to suggest what it is in order to ask questions about and what it would be out of order to reply to?
§ Mr. Renton
I thought that I had covered that point by saying that hon. Gentlemen had managed to get the topics out of their mouths and make their points and that, as they had made them, it was perhaps too late for the Chair to do anything about them.