HL Deb 04 May 1972 vol 330 cc849-52

3.18 p.m.


My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether a decision in respect of London weighting allowance to probation officers in the Inner London area has yet been made.


My Lords, I regret that the Answer to the Question is: Not yet. A new proposal was recently put to the Joint Negotiating Committee for the Probation Service, but they found it unacceptable. Her Majesty's Government are at the moment considering the position further.


My Lords, I am obliged to the noble Viscount, the Minister, for his reply. May I ask him whether he would point out in no uncertain manner to his right honourable friend in another place that this matter has been going on for several months now; that the typists and clerical assistants employed by the probation officers in these four London boroughs are receiving a London weighting of £144 a year, yet the probation officers in these boroughs are not to have more than £105? This really is a ridiculous situation when the sum involved, as there are only 111 probation officers in the area concerned, amounts to just over £4,000.


My Lords, I do not need to point out this matter to my right honourable friend; he is very well aware of it. He answered a Question on this very matter on April 27 in another place. He said that he knew it was irritating to a large number of people and he wanted to get it cleared up as soon as possible. I know that he means that. As to the facts the noble Lord has mentioned, these are, so far as the other grades are concerned, quite correct; but the whole point is whether the weighting allowance of £105, or some other figure, shall be applied to the probation officers, and that is at the moment under negotiation.


My Lords, I hesitate to pursue this matter but I know the extent of feeling that exists in the Inner London Probation Service at the present moment. May I ask the noble Viscount whether he would point out to his right honourable friend that if the Criminal Justice Bill becomes an Act its success will depend largely on the Probation Services, and at the present moment they are in two minds about operating it.


My Lords, this is a most serious point. Again I do not think I need point it out to my right honourable friend, and certainly I do not need to point it out to myself, who will soon be dealing with the Criminal Justice Bill. But I will bear in mind what the noble Lord has said and I can assure him that we are aware of the urgency of this matter.


My Lords, does my noble friend realise that some of us on this side of the House have similar feelings about the Probation Service and we are equally disturbed about this delay?


My Lords, may I ask the noble Viscount this question? In view of the fact that the probation officer is a key figure in the prevention of crime, why does not the Home Office recognise this and give him priority?


My Lords, I do not think there is any question of the Home Office not recognising it. The specific figure of London weighting is a matter for negotiation at the moment. It is a detailed point; there is a joint negotiating committee and I hope that your Lordships will agree that these matters must be handled carefully. At the moment the probation officers have refused the latest suggestion that has been put forward, and we must process the matter from there. I am well aware of this, and of the feelings mentioned by my noble friend and the noble Baroness.


My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that his predecessor also showed considerable sympathy in this matter? Is he further aware that we expect that the present occupant of this post will show his considerable powers of persuasion to get this matter to a satisfactory conclusion much more speedily than has so far been the case?


My Lords, I am obliged for the suggestion that I should be able to add speed to a matter which is already being under taken with a great deal of urgency, but I will pass on what the noble Lord has said, and if there is anything further I can do I will do it.