HC Deb 06 June 1996 vol 278 cc704-5
4. Ms Quin

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department when he next intends to meet representatives of the probation service to discuss probation issues. [30264]

Mr. Sackville

My right hon. and learned Friend expects to meet representatives of the Association of Chief Officers of Probation on 10 July and of the Central Probation Council on 23 July.

Ms Quin

Will the Minister take the opportunity of paying tribute to the work of the probation service and give a commitment to an enhanced and secure role for the service in the future? In the discussions in July, will the Minister respond to the probation service's concerns about the Government's action in removing training qualifications from the probation service? Will the Government also respond fully to the probation service's concerns about the Government's White Paper and the work of the probation service as set out in it?

Mr. Sackville

I am glad to be able to say that Baroness Blatch will meet people in the profession to discuss the new training arrangements. I ask the hon. Lady to request that her allies in politics and in the trade unions desist. They have been seeking to delay those negotiations in a rearguard attempt to keep the outdated social work degree as a necessary part of training. Any further delay will damage the profession.

Mr. Nicholas Baker

Does my hon. Friend think that representatives of the probation service will recommend to him a curfew of children under 10, as recommended by the hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw)?

Mr. Sackville

The hon. Member for Blackburn needs to get his house in order and decide exactly what he is recommending to the House. We have heard three different versions of that plan in as many days, which typifies the totally muddled and confused attitude to law and order on the Opposition Benches.

Mr. Alex Carlile

Will the Minister explain to the House how his right hon. and learned Friend proposes to persuade probation officers that that there will be an improvement in penal policy by a 15 per cent. reduction in probation staff this year? Will he also tell the House how the Government will justify the removal from prisons of seconded probation officers, who make an important contribution to the release of prisoners from prison, so that it can be shown—if at all—that prison works?

Mr. Sackville

I do not know where the hon. and learned Gentleman gets his figures, because spending on the probation service has remained constant in real terms. As to prisons, a great deal more work is being done on rehabilitation in prison by prison officers and by drug rehabilitation services, which are now working in prison. A great deal of work is being done.

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