§ Mr. Hancock:
To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department for what reason the pay negotiations for the National Probation Service were not concluded by 1 April; when the negotiations will begin; whether a similar timetable will be adopted in 2004; and if he will make a statement. 
§ Paul Goggins:
The pay negotiations for the National Probation Service (NPS) were not concluded by 1 April 2003 because of the need to obtain agreement to the pay remit by my right hon. Friend, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury (Paul Boateng). The remit was not agreed until 17 July. A pay offer was then made to the Trade Unions on 22 July and this is now subject to an acceptance ballot of Trade Union members. Union leaders have recommended the offer to their members.
It is not intended that a similar timetable will be adopted for 2004. This is because the National Probation Directorate, in conjunction with the Probation Boards' Association (the employers' organisation), is currently negotiating with the Trade Unions a new pay and grading system for the National Probation Service. If agreement can be reached, it is planned that there will be a two-year pay settlement covering the years 2004–05 and 2005–06.
§ Mr. Hancock:
To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department for what reasons the National Probation Service required a pay remit before their pay negotiations could begin this year; when the remit will be completed; why it could not be completed in time for the pay negotiations to be completed by 1 April; whether a pay remit will be an annual requirement; and if he will make a statement. 
§ Paul Goggins:
When the National Probation Service (NPS) was established in April 2001 the Probation Service moved from being part funded by the local authorities and the Home Office to being solely funded by the Home Office. This change in funding made it appropriate, as with other public services, that the NPS was required to submit its pay remit for approval by my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary to the Treasury. This arrangement became fully operative for the first time for the 2003–04 pay settlement. Treasury rules require that employers cannot begin pay negotiations with the Trade Unions until the Treasury has approved the remit.
The Chief Secretary agreed the NPS remit on 17 July and a pay offer was made to the Trade Unions on 22 July.
The reason why the negotiations on the NPS pay settlement did not begin until July relates to the extended timetable for clearance of remits through Ministers and the Treasury. Coupled with this is a complex process of ensuring that the proposed settlement is affordable by the NPS and conforms to public sector pay policy. These factors meant that it was not possible for the NPS to meet the 1 April settlement date. It should be borne in mind that a settlement, once agreed, is backdated to the relevant settlement date.47W
It is not intended that a similar timetable will be adopted for 2004–05. This is because a new pay and grading system is currently planned for the NPS and a two-year remit will be sought well in advance from the Treasury to cover the years 2004–05 and 2005–06. There should therefore be no repetition of this year's delay.