§ 7.17 p.m.
§ The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government (Mr. James MacColl)
I beg to move,That the Probation Officers and Clerks (Superannuation) (Amendment) Regulations 1965, a draft of which was laid before this House on 2nd February, be approved.These Regulations are needed because of changes in the organisation of the Probation Service resulting from the Administration of Justice Act, 1964, and other changes brought about by the London Government Act, 1963. I could go into more detail if hon. Members wish to raise any points, but their effect, briefly, is that as from 1st April, 1965, probation staff employed by the inner and outer London probation committees shall participate in the fund of the Greater London Council and be subject to the general local government superannuation.
The Regulations do not seek to protect the individual superannuation rights of staff in post on 31st March, 1965, who will be transferred to the inner and outer London committees. This will be done in an order under Section 35 of the Administration of Justice Act, 1964, to be made by my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary.
The opportunity has been taken to make two other minor changes concerning probation committees generally. Any appeal against a discretionary decision in the superannution field of a probation committee by the local authority which is to defray the expenses of that committee will in future be determined by my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary instead of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government.
The other change is an alteration in the formula for calculating the length of service of the whole-time officer who has previously worked part time. The regulations have been drafted in consultation with my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary, the associations representing the local authorities, the Greater London Council, the London County Council, the Central Council of Probation Committees and the National 1442 Association of Probation Officers, as well as the National and Local Government Officers' Association. They represent an agreed measure.
§ 7.20 p.m.
§ Mr. James Allason (Hemel Hempstead)
We on this side welcome the Regulations. We congratulate the Government on their enthusiasm in taking up the challenge of the reorganisation of local government and the modernisation of Britain, for which they did not show so much enthusiasm before. Here, however, we have an earnest of it.
The Regulations refer to "the Secretary of State" in the singular. The Joint Parliamentary Secretary mentioned that the Secretary of State would be the Home Secretary, but I have an idea that any Secretary of State can operate for any other Secretary of State. Possibly the Minister can give me confirmation of this.
The National Association of Probation Officers has asked me to say that it very much welcomes the Regulations and I hope that the House will agree to them.
§ 7.21 p.m.
§ Mr. Graham Page (Crosby)
The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government is not getting away with it as lightly as that. He did not really attempt to explain the Regulations to the House. They contain some peculiar provisions, not, perhaps, in their merits, but in their shape.
I understand that the Regulations are necessary because of the Administration of Justice Act, 1964, the creation of the Greater London area and the setting up of the five committees for inner London and four for outer London. The superannuation of the probation staff to be employed by these new committees is dealt with in the Regulations. The Regulations do not, however, endeavour to protect the individual interests of existing employees. The Regulations appear to deal with employees to be employed in the future by the new committees but they do not in any way deal with the position of the members of the existing staff who are not taken on by the new committees. What is to be the position of those people and their position under the superannuation fund, to which they have contributed?
1443 The Regulations deal with the whole-time staff employed by the new committees for inner London. I wish to distinguish here between the whole-time and the part-time probation staff and also between those employed by the inner London committees and those employed by the outer London committees. As I read the Regulations, the whole-time staff employed by the new committees for inner London will participate in the superannuation fund of the Greater London Council. The part-time staff, however, will not participate at all. It is true that they did not come within the London County Council superannuation fund and I understand, therefore, that they are entirely left out from the scheme under these Regulations.
When one refers, however, to the staffs employed by the outer London committees, both whole-time and part-time staff come into the scheme of the Greater London Council superannuation fund. This, I believe, is because the part-time staff in outer London were catered for by the several local authority superannuation funds, which seem to have been more generous than the London County Council.
To sum up, this part of the Regulations seems to deal with the whole-time staff of the inner London committees and the whole-time and part-time staff of the outer London committees, but leaves in the air the part-time staff of the inner London committees. So much for that point.
I want now to refer to the transfer of functions to the Secretary of State. I understand that the responsibility for the expenses of the Inner London Probation Committee rests with the Receiver for the Metropolitan Police District. He has to find the funds to support the Inner London Probation Committee. Therefore, the Regulations provide that any decisions made with regard to the superannuation fund shall be referred for approval to the Secretary of State and not, as elsewhere, to the local authority.
I wonder whether that is really necessary. It seems to put the Inner London Probation Committee in a quite exceptional position. It is surely the local authority and not the Secretary of State who should approve decisions made in connection with the superannuation fund, 1444 even if for convenience it comes under the responsibility of the Receiver for the Metropolitan Police district for the purpose of defraying expenses.
My third point is that at first sight the Regulations appear to refer entirely to the reorganisation of the Greater London area, but from the last paragraph of the Explanatory Note I see thatThe regulations amend generally the provisions of the 1954 regulations concerning the reckoning of part-time service. They also substitute the Secretary of State for the Minister of Housing and Local Government as the appellate authority where any council is dissatisfied with a discretionary decision on superannuation matters of the probation committee whose expenses it defrays.Those two points are general. They are tucked into the Regulations, which otherwise refer to Greater London. My complaint is that the Explanatory Note does not state where we find the general points in the Regulations as opposed to the Greater London matters. I assure the Parliamentary Secretary that it is extremely difficult to find where, in the Regulations, these general points occur.
Throughout the Regulations, Greater London is mentioned again and again but on careful examination one finds that by a combination of Regulations 4(b), 5(a) and 6 the appeal against a discretionary decision of the probation committee goes to the Secretary of State—I presume, the Home Secretary—in place of the Minister of Housing and Local Government. I do not complain of that change. What I complain of is that the Regulations do not tell us, without an enormous amount of research, how that change is brought about. It is a general law change tucked into a specific Statutory Instrument.
The other general amendment is that the notional whole-time salaries are, in future, to be determined by reference to rules which the Secretary of State may make from time to time concerning the remuneration of probation staff. This comes into Regulation 5(b) in a very obscure way. In previous Regulations, the calculation of the notional whole-time salary was set out in the Regulations themselves and could, therefore, be seen by hon. Members on such an occasion as this. In future, however, by means of Regulation 5(b), calculation of the notional whole-time salary will be made by the Secretary of State in rules which will not come before the House.
1445 I believe that he has power to make these rules by Statutory Instrument, but by that type of Instrument which does not ever come before the House. I would have been happier if the Regulations had not provided for that, and if we had gone on, as in previous Regulations, setting out the way in which this salary was calculated in the Regulations themselves. It should not be left to the Secretary of State to make these rules without bringing them before the House as they have been brought previously.
There are, therefore, those several points on which I think the hon. Gentleman ought to have offered some explanation to the House on bringing forward these Regulations. After all, they are brought before the House in draft. The hon. Gentleman is asking us to approve this draft so that these Regulations can become effective. The draft is unsatisfactory in at least those three complicated points which I have tried to describe.
§ 7.31 p.m.
§ Mr. MacColl
I am sorry that in the course of administering his rather formidable attack the hon. Member for Crosby (Mr. Graham Page) felt it necessary to rebuke me for not having told the House more about these Regulations.
I would have been happy to have done that, but my feeling was that most of the House was probably holding back its enthusiastic interest in this matter, and that if I had gone into a long disquisition about each of the paragraphs in the Regulations, whilst I might have earned the admiration of the hon. Gentleman, which is what I always want to do, I might not have earned popularity amongst other hon. Members.
I thought that it would be better to let the hon. Gentleman fire off his points, I would then know what he wanted me to answer, and I would do my best to answer them. I hope that I can deal with them both comprehensively and accurately, but if, on reading the record, I find that I am wrong, I shall get in touch with him.
The hon. Member for Hemel Hempstead (Mr. Allason) started with a good but easy point, for which I was grateful. He invited me to hold forth about the London Government Act. It is true that these Regulations are partly the result 1446 of the substitution of the Greater London Council for the London County Council, and that is something which we have had to accept and we have to work, but the other change which is involved in these Regulations is the change in the administration of justice in London, which is something which this bit of the Government warmly welcomed when it came into force.
The integration of the magistrates' courts and the abolition of the direct control of the probation officers by the Home Office were things which resulted from the Aarvold Committee, which I as a back bencher accepted, and we are anxious to see them work.
Drawing on my experience of trying to amend legislation before, I think that I can also say that the Secretary of State means any Secretary of State, so any Secretary of State can act on behalf of another.
I think that I have dealt with the points made by the hon. Member for Crosby about the individual superannuation rights of existing staff. I said that they were not covered in these Regulations. They will be dealt with in regulations under Section 35 of the Administration of Justice Act, and will be made by my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary.
§ Mr. Graham Page
Will they come before the House on a negative Resolution or an affirmative one? Would not it have been better to bring them before the House at the same time as this draft?
§ Mr. MacColl
I do not carry the requirements of the London Government Act in my head. I am not sure whether it is positive or negative, but I shall find out and let the hon. Gentleman know.
I think that this is the most convenient way of dealing with this matter. It is the most convenient legislation under which it could be done, and it is essentially a matter to be dealt with by my right hon. and learned Friend.
Part-time probation officers in inner London never have been superannuable, and will not be under these Regulations. There is no change in the situation there.
The hon. Gentleman asked why my right hon. and learned Friend was 1447 responsible for the expenses of the inner London probation committee. The answer is that they are not borne by the local authority but by the Receiver, and that is why they come to him.
I think that those are the main points that were raised. If I find that I have missed one, I shall write to the hon. Gentleman about it.
§ Mr. Graham Page
The hon. Gentleman did not deal with my complaint about the Explanatory Note of the Regulations not giving any clue as to where the general amendments to the law came in.
§ Mr. MacColl
I am sorry about that, but I think that it is clear if one reads the Regulations. Even I found it very clear when I referred to them, but I am sorry if the hon. Gentleman was misled about that.
§ Question put and agreed to.
That the Probation Officers and Clerks (Superannuation) (Amendment) Regulations 1965, a draft of which was laid before this House on 2nd February, be approved.