HC Deb 08 November 1973 vol 863 cc1161-3
16. Mr. R. C. Mitchell

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what discussions he has had recently concerning the pay and grading of probation officers; and if he will make a statement.

30. Mr. David Clark

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what progress is being made towards a return to a single salary scale for main grade probation officers.

Mr. R. Carr

On 26th October the Joint Negotiating Committee for the Probation Service agreed on increased salary scales for probation officers with effect from 1st July 1973. The increases, which have been approved by the Pay Board, correspond to those agreed for local authority social workers from the same date, and the necessary amendments to the Probation (Conditions of Service) Rules are being prepared.

The employers' side of the Joint Negotiating Committee is continuing its examination of the A and B salary scales and possible alternatives.

Mr. Mitchell

Can the Home Secretary tell us why delegates walked out of a meeting of the National Association of Probation Officers on 26th October?

Mr. Carr

No, I am afraid I cannot. I am not sure that that is an accurate description of what happened.

Mr. Deedes

In the light of my right hon. Friend's reply, may I ask whether he has seen an official expression of opinion from the probation officers which appeared in The Times about 10 days ago and which virtually attacks the Government for a breach of faith? What comment has he on that?

Mr. Carr

Yes, I saw that allegation and I both regret and reject it. In the lifetime of this Government the full-time strength of the probation service has risen—in round figures—from 3,300 to 4,400. The salary limits have also been raised substantially as a result of the Butterworth Committee and our joint agreement to that. The two scales, A and B, to which so much objection is now taken, were part of that committee's recommendations and were agreed to by the association's representatives. The association is perfectly entitled to change its mind but not to make allegations of bad faith.

Mr. Clarke

Does the Minister realise that this twin scale has become notorious in the association and among probation officers? Does he realise that it is causing embarrassment and jealousy within the service? To try to help smooth the efficiency of this worthwhile organisation, will he do something to get a single scheme for rates of pay?

Mr. Carr

I said that the employers' association was looking into the matter. The House must realise that it is only 18 months since the association's representatives agreed to the scales. The association is justified in changing its mind, but we must have time to look at the question properly.

Mrs. Shirley Williams

Does the Home Secretary recall that at the time of the Butterworth Report the National Association of Probation Officers expressed its doubts about it, but subsequently it emerged that only a small number of probation officers had been left behind on scale A? Does he also recall that in answer to a Question of mine shortly before the recess he said that he had some understanding of the difficulty and would look into it himself? Will he therefore consider it again in view of the disruption that will be caused?

Mr. Carr

I do not want to take back any of the words I used to the hon. Lady, but this is a matter for the joint negotiating committee and the employers are actively looking at it.