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Probation Board (Northern Ireland)

Volume 23: debated on Monday 10 May 1982

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.

I beg to move,

That the draft Probation Board (Northern Ireland) Order 1982, which was laid before this House on 22nd April, be approved.
I have been described by the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) as a maid of all work for the Northern Ireland Office. I hope that he will bear with me as I make my last speech of the evening, except, perhaps, for any reply that I must make.

The order seeks to implement one of the recommendations of the review group on legislation and services for children and young persons, popularly known in Northern Ireland as the Black committee after its chairman the effective and much lamented late Sir Harold Black.

The Black committee, in addition to the task that it was given in respect of juvenile offenders and children in need of care, was also asked to consider the future administration of the Northern Ireland probation service. I must stress that in my view what we are discussing tonight are not the broad issues of the Black committee report and its recommendations about which my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State recently made a substantial and, I hope, substantive statement to the House. Further debates on that must await another day. We are concerned purely with the contents of the draft order, which represents a significant development in the history of the Northern Ireland probation service.

Some hon. Members will he aware that the Northern Ireland probation service, unlike its sister services in England and Wales, has for a good many years been administered direct by a Government Department. The reasons are largely historical and stem from a somewhat erratic development of probation services in Northern Ireland during the 1920s and 1930s. The legislation in force at that time—the Probation of Offenders Act 1907—applied throughout the United Kingdom and placed the responsibility for appointing probation officers on local justices. In certain parts of Northern Ireland, particularly and peculiarly in some rural areas, and for reasons best known to themselves, some justices chose not to appoint probation officers. It is difficult to explain that state of affairs. I expect that they had other preoccupations at the time.

In 1935 the Summary Jurisdiction and Criminal Justice Act (Northern Ireland) transferred responsibility for appointing probation officers to the then Ministry for Home Affairs under the old Stormont. This arrangement was confirmed in the Probation Act (Northern Ireland) 1950 and has remained unchanged in its main provisions until this day, except that the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland is now responsible under the terms of the Northern Ireland Constitution Act.

The 1950 Act authorises the Secretary of State to do many things concerned with the probation service. It authorises him to appoint and to pay probation officers, to assign them to courts, and to make available the necessary administrative facilities. The Act also provides that the full cost of the service should be borne on the Consolidated Fund—that self-same Northern Ireland Consolidated Fund that was the subject of some debate on the money resolution.

That contrasts with the position in England and Wales, where administration is by probation and after-care committees funded jointly by local authorities and by my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary. However, unity does not lead to uniformity. Scotland has its own arrangements, whereby the probation service has been integrated into local authority social work departments and has ceased to exist as a separate service.

In considering the range of options open to it, the committee under Sir Harold Black invited comments from many people. When it received them it considered the lessons that might be learnt from other parts of the kingdom and looked at the options. On the basis of the information available to it, the committee decided that there were three options.

The first was to leave things exactly as they were and to leave the probation service as a separate body responsible to the Northern Ireland Office. The second option was to depart entirely from that and to make the probation service a separate body responsible 10 a probation committee with a membership drawn from the community. As I am sure my hon. Friends will agree, that was a highly novel and interesting suggestion in the context of Northern Ireland

The third suggestion was that Northern Ireland should follow the Scots model and that the probation service should be absorbed into the social service departments of area health and social service boards.

I know that many hon. Members, including the hon. Members for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) and Antrim, South (Mr. Molyneaux), are interested in these issues. As they will be aware, the report concluded that the probation service should remain a separate service and not be integrated into the health and social services of the Province. At the same time, the committee did not feel it right that the probation service should continue to be administered under the Northern Ireland Office, but not because the Northern Ireland Office had in any way failed to carry out its role responsibly.

The committee recommended the change because it felt that the effectiveness of the probation service would be enhanced by community participation in the management of the probation service, and that that community participation could not be brought forward under the present provisions. The probation service was to be transferred lock, stock and barrel from the Northern Ireland Office to the new body.

In endorsing that conclusion the Government have bean much encouraged by the experience since April 1979—starting under the Labour Government and subsequently under this Government—of community involvement in the management of the community service scheme. That has been a great success.

Before turning to the provisions of the order I should mention that, following its publication last November as a proposal for legislation according to the normal formula in the Province, a number of interested bodies, including the probation service itself, submitted comments and recommendations. I am pleased to report, and I hope that the hon. Member for Hammersmith, North (Mr. Soley) shares this pleasure, that without exception, the main proposal that there should be an independent board to run the probation service was welcomed. There were several suggestions about ways in which the order might be improved. Again, the Government responded.

I come now to the articles. If I say that there are 17 of them, that is not a threat, merely a description. Of those 17, three or four are the key articles to which we should pay attention. Article 3 gives effect to schedule 1 to the order, which details the constitution of the board. It provides that the board will be a body corporate in its management and in the running of the probation service in Northern Ireland. It provides that the board should have members appointed by the Secretary of State, who will also appoint the chairman, to serve for three years. There will be consultations about the membership of the board, similar to the consultation that takes place when other non-departmental bodies are set up. We hope that the board will be broadly representative of community interests. I hope that it will be staffed by people who will support the aims and work of the probation service.

We hope that the interests from which nominations will be sought will include district councils, the lay magistracy, the legal profession, the trades unions, commerce and industry, the universities and voluntary organisations. We see a significant role for voluntary organisations, particularly in providing some of the after-care services which any good community-encompassed probation service should have.

Article 4 lists the main functions of the board and distinguishes between those which it must carry out and those which it may carry out. For example, it will provide the care of prisoners during sentence and after release, community service by offenders, which has been quite a success in many parts of the Province since its introduction, hostels and other facilities of that sort that are designed to help the reintegration of offenders into the community.

Article 5 requires the board to assign probation officers to the Northern Ireland courts. This is an important provision.

Article 6 recognises that my right hon. Friend has overall responsibility for the treatment of offenders in Northern Ireland. The provisions of article 6 will make it possible for him, should the occasion demand, to offer advice to the board on the exercise of its functions. That is an important provision, but I do not expect that it will be used often. Our experience of other very successful non-departmental bodies, such as the education and library boards and the health and social services boards, leads us to expect that that will be the case.

Articles 7 to 16 first make financial provision and then provide for a number of other important issues affecting the new probation board; for example, the possibility of the board integrating voluntary organisations into its work, conducting research of its own—as the probation service does on this side of the water—and inspecting hostels and after-care facilities.

Article 15 makes the very important provision that the Secretary of State can make rules for the proper regulation and management of hostels and after-care facilities.

The order has been widely welcomed and it is intended that the staff of the probation service should move, perhaps quite soon—in months rather than years—from one particular form of employment, under the Northern Ireland Office, to another form of employment under the new probation board once that has been set up.

The Opposition spokesman will have very much at heart those who were, at one remove, once his colleagues. We know that he was a professional probation officer in a previous career. Incidentally, I was very pleased to see that the term of probation to which the Leader of the Opposition subjected him on the Back Benches, for five or six weeks, has come to an end so quickly and that we find him back in his accustomed place on the Opposition Front Bench.

The board is required to make an offer of continuing employment to all such staff as want that employment, on terms which, taken as a whole—staff cannot, obviously, be given identical jobs in identical offices—will not be less favourable than the terms on which they are employed on the date on which the offer is made. That will ensure that no probation officer or probation assistant is disadvantaged overall by transfer.

I draw to the attention of the House—and particularly to that of the Opposition spokesman—the substantial increase in the numerical strength of the probation service in Northern Ireland in recent years. In January 1978 there were 107 probation officers in the Province. In January 1982 there were 170—an increase of 59 per cent. over the period. The transfer of existing staff should allow the board to discharge its main responsibility under the order, which is to give adequate and efficient probation service to those in need of it, with an adequate number of probation officers in the Province. I do not think that there has been wide recognition in Northern Ireland of how dramatic that increase has been, and I give full credit to the previous Administration for their part in bringing about the plans on which the increase was based.

My last point touches on a recommendation made by the Black committee as part of its wider recommendations on the care of children and young persons as a whole. The committee suggested that the probation board, as an additional responsibility outside its remit as a probation service, should have responsibility for the management of the custodial establishment catering for the more serious and persistent juvenile offenders. That recommendation is not addressed in the order, but it may be the subject of further legislation that may flow from the consideration of the Black committee recommendations.

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State told the House recently that he was convinced of the rightness of the Black committee recommendations and was anxious that they should be carried forward with all speed. We are determined to carry them forward and the order is the first significant step in that direction.

11.10 pm

The Opposition welcome the setting up of an independent board for the Northern Ireland probation service. I am grateful for the Under-Secretary's comments about me. I am never sure of the relative advantages of discipline in the Conservative and Labour Parties. It seems to me that the Opposition are more generous, because we have conditional discharges, absolute discharges and occasionally suspended sentences, whereas the Conservatives tend towards incarceration or exile. Fortunately, they have dropped the death penalty; and we welcome that as a step in the right direction.

It would not be in order for an hon. Member to deal in depth with the Black report. It is an interesting report which is well worth reading, but it would not be appropriate to discuss the recommendations on training schools or the custodial unit, which would require another order or a Bill.

Before I became an hon. Member I visited the Northern Ireland probation service and was impressed by the work done there. It is an extremely difficult environment in which to work, because views of Republicanism and Unionism and what side one takes infiltrate right through the State and its organisation. In addition, people in Northern Ireland do not always separate out crime as we do and it is sometimes given a political interpretation, regardless of whether we agree with that.

A basic assumption in the setting up on the board is that there will be a coming down on the side of what has become known as the justice model, as opposed to the welfare model. I have come to share that view over the years. It is not an easy decision, and there is no final right or wrong. There are advantages and disadvantages in both models. The justice side recognises the importance of both punishment and the rights of the child, whereas the welfare side tries to deal with the needs of the child in a social, psychological or behavioural approach. The sides are difficult to separate. Anyone who has been in a juvenile court knows that the link between an offence and the environment and home of the offender is very close. That is also true of adult courts.

I recognise the importance of punishment because it is a mistake to assume that it does not have a role in the rearing of children. It always has done, and that has been recognised by social workers and probation officers for many years. However, it is important to set the punishment in the context of the offence and when a child comes before a court from a home which is not as good as it should be and from an environment lacking many of the advantages that should be available it is wrong to impose on him a punishment that is greater than we would impose on our own children or would see others impose on them.

I welcome the presence in the debate of the Minister of State, Home Office, who has an interest in these matters. I have batted his ears on a number of occasions with complaints about there being far too many people in our prisons, largely because we were putting so many into custodial settings as youngsters.

All that one can say with safety about custodial experience, particularly for children, is that one learns to live in the institution which makes a return at a later date easier. Anyone admitted to hospital in an emergency will have some idea of the shock and horror that is felt when one is first admitted. The longer one stays, the greater the degree to which shock works off. If one stays a long time, the main anxiety is that of wondering what will happen when one leaves. Similarly, the shock occasioned to someone entering a penal institution for the first time is horrific. The shock lasts for several days and possibly for several weeks. Then follows the anxiety before one goes out again. Afterwards, however, it is easier to go back on a second, third or subsequent occasion.

The political troubles aside, the social fabric in Northern Ireland is perhaps closer and more supportive than is the case on this side of the water. Nevertheless, unemployment and poor environment, combined with lack of love or lack of consistency in the parenting of a child, will inevitably lead towards trouble. This can be manifested in the form of delinquent behaviour or other behavioural problems that beset the child then or later in life as an adult. These matters should not be ignored.

We are, however, concerned with the setting up of a board to run the probation service. Perhaps the most important question is the appointment of the chairman. I emphasised, as did my right hon. Friend the Member for Mansfield (Mr. Concannon) in the previous debate, the importance of finding a presiding officer for the Assembly who was acceptable to the whole community. That requirement is reflected in many institutions of the State in Northern Ireland, not least in the probation service.

One of the purposes of creating the board is to bring it nearer to the public. That is important. The probation service is able to enter homes across the divide. It is, therefore, even more important that the chairman and members of the board are seen to be able to cross the divide. The Opposition will be watching with concern to see that the right person is appointed. It will not he easy. It is, however, important if the probation service is to continue its impressive record in crossing the sectarian divide.

When the debate took place in this country, considerable concern was expressed about what would happen to the social services. The setting up of family courts in Scotland was a courageous step. In England and Wales, juveniles were taken largely out of the hands of the probation service. Every now and then, there is talk of putting them back. One of my anxieties is as to the danger of undermining the role of the social worker and the social services. This lends credence to the myth that social workers are less able than the probation service to deal with delinquents. That is not necessarily true. A great deal depends on training and experience. I would not like to see the role of the social services undermined.

It is not clear to me whether the order provides for payment only to the chairman or to all the members of the board. Schedule 1 contains the words:
"The Board shall pay or make provision of such remuneration".
I read from that that all members of the board will be paid in some way, but I am not clear whether the words "of such remuneration" alter that in some way. I should welcome clarification as to whether all members of the board will be paid. I do not know whether the Minister has any information on how that scale of payment will be worked out and what it will be related to, but it would be helpful to know that as well. I am not asking for a detailed reply.

Article 12 of the order refers to loans to probation officers to buy cars. They do not have that facility in Northern Ireland, although they have had that facility for many years in other parts of the United Kingdom. It has been beneficial, because a newly appointed probation officer does not necessarily have the money to buy a Car, but a car is often essential, particularly for those living and working in a rural area. Will the Minister say what can be expected there?

One of the things that ought to be relevant is whether the interest rate on the loan will be linked to the market rate of interest, or whether it will be a set rate of interest. There have been different practices in England and Wales on that. Again, I recognise that the Minister might not have an immediate reply, but I draw his attention to it. I am sure that the Minister would not want to draw this article in such a way as to impose on the negotiations between the trade union concerned and the employing side. Nevertheless, the provision is welcome.

There are two or three other related points which, again, I recognise that the Minister might not be able to respond to straight away. Will the board be able to consider, if not setting up itself, at least giving considerable encouragement f o the establishment of victim schemes? These have been useful in the United Kingdom. It is one of the ways of getting the public to understand and accept the problems that are posed by offenders in society, and a way of getting the general public to be more sympathetic to a humane and enlightened penal policy.

I should also like to know, perhaps at a later stage, whether the board will be able to set up a limited company, as was done by the London probation service, when it formulated the organisation known as Bulldog. This was an attempt to give employment to those who had not had any for many years, in a relatively controlled and sheltered environment, yet doing real jobs in a community that needed the work done.

I should not like the problem of alcohol abuse to be underestimated. Again, the Minister will know of my direct involvement in this, as chairman of the Alcohol Education Centre. It is no news to anybody who works in this field—all the statistics confirm a growing problem—that alcohol abuse is usually linked with crime. I should also like to press the Minister to remind the Government that unemployment is also linked to crime.

The link in these things is never direct. I suspect that alcohol lowers the social control a little more and makes an offence that little bit more likely. Similarly, unemployment allows crime to take place by making time available, giving a greater motive for the need for money, and a host of other factors, not least the feeling that one is no longer able to contribute, or be of use, to society.

I welcome the order, which is useful. In the long term it may have more uses than we recognise in our late and not all that well-attended debate, but I should like to give it that welcome and to have a response from the Minister in due course on some of the points that I have raised.

11.23 pm

I speak on behalf of the Official Unionist Party, which generally welcomes the order, particularly as it is a step forward in the implementation of the Black report.

Many people in Northern Ireland are concerned over the tardiness with which the Black report has been implemented. Others are concerned that, as the hon. Member for Hammersmith, North (Mr. Soley) pointed out, there will be a conflict between the judicial model and the welfare model. I come close to the point of view of the hon. Member for Hammersmith, North, and I particularly underscore the point that it is not true justice or true welfare. Rather than thinking in terms of a conflict of interests, we should have better movement there.

Having said that, I must disagree about some people in Northern Ireland not being able to act as chairmen of bodies. In Ulster we have an old saying—I am sure that it is common in other parts of the Kingdom—"As you live your life, you judge your neighbour." I suspect that, in view of the problems that are apparent in some areas of the United Kingdom, one may believe that there are no people in Ulster who are accepted by anyone but themselves. I wish to put on record the tremendous service that successive chairmen in this area have given in Northern Ireland. I could mention several who are held in the highest esteem although, at other levels, we may disagree with some of their views. I wish to pay tribute to the staff and to the work done for many years in Rathgael, where many a lad has found great help in moments of difficulty in his life.

There are one or two points on which I should like further clarification. Will the Minister assure the House that the position of probation officers under article 4(1)(c), in cases where they do not believe that they are social workers, has been properly understood? Equally, I voice concern about the pressure that has been put upon social workers in Northern Ireland to carry out court work over and above the other work that they have been doing. Sometimes there is insufficient staffing and some of them have insufficient training to do that work. If the Government want to involve them in such work—I question at times whether they should be doing it—there should be adequate resources to make it possible for them to carry out that work.

Turning to article 12, I reinforce the point made by the hon. Member for Hammersmith, North, especially bearing in mind that social workers in Northern Ireland have that facility. Probation workers are entitled to have equal status with those involved in similar work.

I gather that there is concern in some quarters about the composition of the board. It is for the Government to make it representative of the whole country. That is the purpose of the board, if we take into account the various interests.

There is also concern about the understanding and use of the word "rehabilitation" in schedule 4. Some members of the probation service consider that it may be too restrictive. It would be helpful if the Minister would further consider its purpose and whether it would be to the good of the service if it were exchanged for some other word.

Finally, on the employment of staff, the Minister repeated the term "taken as a whole". I understand what he meant by it. I hope that those who have to implement it also understand what the Minister meant and will take it in the same way, because it could be misused to deny some members' rights in the transfer of resources.

11.28 pm

I rise briefly to support and supplement what has been ably said by my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, South (Rev. Martin Smyth).

In the debate in the Northern Ireland Committee on the more general matter of the Select Committee report there was fairly general agreement on the desirability of avoiding piecemeal implementation of that report. The Government seem to have largely ignored that view, which they did not seem to resist when it was put in the course of the earlier debate.

The first penny packet—if one can call it that—implementation of the Black report came in the form of the regrouping and reorganisation of the homes and institutions. This evening in this order we have a further step. As most of the ground was covered in an earlier debate and in various discussions with the previous Secretary of State, the right hon. Member for Spelthorne (Mr. Atkins), we did not feel it necessary or justified to ask for a further interim debate.

My hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, South, sought certain assurances and clarifications. As he said, it may be that such assurances have been given to those most closely affected. He was right to seek to have those assurances placed on the record tonight.

I stress the importance of adhering to the overall strategy of the Black committee report. All the people of Northern Ireland—not two communities; I believe that there is only one—have a vested interest in obtaining results from the proposed structure as a whole. All of them have a right to expect us to insist on a plan and timetable for the introduction of the Black committee's recommendations as a whole.

While I welcome the Minister's assurance in his opening speech that the Government recognise the desirability of treating the report as a whole, I must say that the limited step that we are taking tonight will not yield the desired result if it is left in isolation.

11.31 pm

I give a general welcome to the order that is before the House tonight. I should like also to pay a tribute to those who have been active in this area through the years. They have persevered, despite difficulties and problems, and those who know something about the care of young people who unfortunately in our society have gone astray have the highest possible tribute to pay to those who have engaged themselves in this regard, some as properly appointed probation officers and others in voluntary organisations. They have done a very good job of work and should not go unnoticed in the debate this evening.

The appointment of the board is a vital and important matter. If the Under-Secretary of State had not drawn a parallel with the educational library boards when he introduced this, I would have been more happy. Northern Ireland is not particularly enamoured of the appointed boards that we have at present.

I seek an assurance from the Minister that those boards are not for defeated candidates of certain parties that the Government feel should get into office even though the ballot rejects them. It is a sad and sometimes bitter experience to see appointed to education boards those who could not get elected to office. The sop of appointing them to boards was made by the Government. Those in large political parties have no nominations whatever.

I am sure that, if the Government follow the same policy, no one with any sympathy whatever for the Democratic Unionist Party has a chance to be appointed to this board. If the Government are being fair, and if they say that they make appointees to spread the view of a particular board, they should have regard to the voting strengths of individual parties. They should also ensure that at least some voice from that particular party should be heard on that board. What I have said is true of the Democratic Unionist Party as it is of the Official Unionist Party and, in some instances, of the SDLP, which I have heard making the same complaint. I say without tongue in cheek that this must not be an Alliance board. Let the board extend across the divide. Let it embrace the Roman Catholic population and the Protestant population, including those who are called extreme Protestants, moderate Protestants and ecumenical Protestants, and the divisions that may exist in the Roman Catholic Church. Let them all have a place as of right on the board.

I must take issue with the hon. Member for Hammersmith, North (Mr. Soley), who speaks from the Opposition Front Bench. He seems to think that there is no respect for the chairmen of committees in Northern Ireland. I may be exaggerating slightly—

I shall put my argument another way. The hon. Gentleman seems to feel that our attitude towards our chairmen is not our greatest strength. I ask him to remember all the strife and difficulty that have been experienced. Against that background, the chairmen have done a good job of work. There are people in Northern Ireland who are capable of doing the job.

Has the hon. Gentleman forgotten what I said in the House only a fortnight ago? I said that it is my belief that the people of Northern Ireland are well capable of governing themselves I noticed that the hon. Gentleman was nodding enthusiastically at the time. At the same time probation officers recognise that there is a problem in relating to the various groups within the Province. The hon. Gentleman has touched on that problem quite effectively. I have no doubt about the ability of a number of people in Northern Ireland to perform that task.

If a person is given a task, he must be allowed to prove himself. There was an individual who was reckoned to be a extreme Right-wing Unionist, and that was the Rt. Hon. Nat Minford. There was a debate in this Chamber about his conduct in an election in West Belfast. He took the chair at the Assembly, which was an extremely stormy body. Some of the members of the Assembly, including myself, did not give much trouble because they did not attend, but when they did attend the result was that there was a stormy passage. However, Nat Minford gained the respect of the Assembly. He did so because he had the opportunity of doing the job.

I should like the Minister to tell us something more about the five co-opted members. If I were preaching, I would say that five was the number of grace in the scripture, but I do not know how much grace the five will have. Does the Minister feel that the appointed members of the board should have an opportunity to bring in others with professional skills?

The board has a maximum size and its membership does not have to be taken up to the maximum. We want as effective a body as possible. We wish the board to have the ability, if it so desires, to appoint additional experts. I understand that similar committees on this side of he water are made up largely, if not wholly, of lay magistrates who can co-opt additional people to help them in their deliberations. The Government are given some assurance that they are going down the right road if they see the community being brought in on this side of the water as they are planning to have it brought in from day one in the Province.

I welcome the Minister's intervention on that part of the order. As he said, it is an important part. The old local authority committees and certain committees of local government offered the opportunity to co-opt certain members to aid the work of the board.

I hope that the Minister will tell us more about the functions, organisation and jurisdiction of the bail hostels. The representations that I have received from the probation service are largely met by the order. Those of us in public life know that if there is a tremendous lobby on an issue it means that people are dissatisfied. Of course, there was a lobby when the order was drafted. However, many of the points have been met and welcome that. Nevertheless, like the hon. Member for Belfast, South (Rev. Martin Smyth), I feel that the probation officers are entitled to the matters that they put before the Minister.

11.40 pm

I am pleased to reply to the debate and to note that the order has been given a general welcome. Hon. Members, particularly the hon. Members for Belfast, South (Rev. Martin Smyth) and for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley), have raised several detailed points. The hon. Member for Antrim, South (Mr. Molyneaux) made some general remarks about the Government's policy towards the Black report. He attempted to pin the Government down to give a clear undertaking that they would proceed as quickly as possible with the implementation of the Black strategy. I gave that undertaking at the beginning of the debate, but I happily give it again. The whole Black strategy could not have been implemented under the terms of one order. The order would have been extremely complex and long, and if our main aim remains the implementation of the strategy I cannot see why it is not best to legislate bit by bit as the strategy comes together.

I greatly welcome the remarks of the hon. Members for Belfast, South and for Antrim, North about the high standard of the probation service in Northern Ireland and about the high standards of those who have helped to run that service. I assure the hon. Member for Belfast, South that probation officers fully understand their role, just as social workers do. Under the transfer of powers, there is no reason why that highly trained body should not carry on conducting affairs. To the best of my knowledge there has been little or no complaint in recent years about its conduct of affairs. Sometimes the overlap between social workers and probation officers is slightly blurred. That has not necessarily always worked against the welfare of society as a whole or that of—as social workers insist on saying—the "client". I wish that they could find a better word.

I share some of the feelings expressed by the hon. Member for Belfast, South about the word "rehabilitation". That word caused him some concern. It causes quite a lot of concern to some probation officers and for that reason its use was avoided in the order. The reference to it is in schedule 4 in the context of the Prison Act (Northern Ireland) 1953.

The hon. Members for Belfast, South and for Antrim, North raised the important issue of the composition of the committee and of who should be its chairman. For a while it seemed to be suggested that a chairman might not easily be found from among the people of Northern Ireland. I know that that was not really meant, but one need look only at the successful chairmen of some of the health and personal social service boards, and some of the education and library boards, to see that there is a galaxy of talent from which the Secretary of State can appoint a suitable chairman.

I reassure the hon. Member for Antrim, North about the welfare of those young people who may be committed to the care of voluntary organisations and hostels at some stage of their rehabilitation into society. I draw the hon. Gentleman's attention to articles 14 and 15. Article 14 authorises the Secretary of State to appoint inspectors to look into the running of hostels and other establishments such as bail hostels and places where young and older offenders can be trained and rehabilitated.

Article 15 enables the Secretary of State to make clear rules for the proper regulation and management of hostels. Those controls are necessary. They are made necessary by the fact that such establishments provide accommodation for offenders, many of whom will be required to reside therein by the courts. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will accept that there is adequate provision in the order for the inspection and running of such establishments.

A number of points were raised by the hon. Member for Hammersmith, North (Mr. Soley), who gave us the weight of his experience. That showed in the interesting remarks that he made about the overlap between the justice model and the welfare model of the treatment of offenders, both of which can be accommodated in the community framework. I do not know whether that accords with practice and theory in the probation service.

The hon. Gentleman raised the issue of payment of the chairman of the board and of its members. The draft order makes it clear that payments to members will be determined by the Secretary of State with the approval of the Treasury. Once they have been determined, it will be the duty of the board to make the payments. The rates of payment have not been fixed, but it is the intention that the chairman should be paid an honorarium in the same way as chairman of the education and library boards and health and social services boards are paid honoraria. Other members, including the deputy chairman, should be paid attendance allowances and travel expenses in the same way as one could reasonably expect such committee members to be reimbursed. That is consistent with current practice in Northern Ireland in the non-departmental bodies—the statutory boards. We do not intend to deviate one little bit from that practice.

The hon. Member also looked into the terms and conditions of service for those who are transferred from one form of authority—the Northern Ireland Office—to another form of authority and of employment—the board when it is set up, if the order is passed. He was interested in the issue of car loans and how those car loans should be calculated for probation officers. He said, rightly, that younger probation officers have considerable problems in finding the money to buy a car. There is no reason why they should come into the service with a car. In England and Wales probation officers are provided with loans from which they can purchase motor cars. The hon. Gentleman made a specific point about rates of interest. We hope that the rates of interest to be charged will be broadly in line with those applicable in England and Wales.

The hon. Gentleman raised the issue whether such a board could introduce a victim scheme or a bulldog scheme. I have no doubt about this. The board may consider seriously the possibilities of participating in a form of victim scheme suitable for the Province. It is not required to do so, but it may decide to do so. I cannot commit the board in advance of the appointment of its chairman and members. However, there is nothing to prevent it from indulging in that form of after-care for victims, any more than there is to prevent it from setting up such schemes as the bulldog scheme, as carried out at present by the inner London probation service. I see no reason why, once it has been appointed, the board should not turn its mind to introducing a somewhat similar scheme in Northern Ireland. Once again, that is a matter for the board, but the board is not prevented by the provisions of the order from turning its attention to that matter.

I appreciate the welcome that has been given to the order. Should it pass through the House tonight I believe that it will, to a certain extent, mark the coming of age of the probation service in Northern Ireland. I am not referring just to its growth to more than 100 members since those rural justices in pre-1935 days, for reasons best known to themselves, decided not to appoint probation officers. It has come a very long way.

I think that the order recognises the extremely important role that the community and the leaders of the community in Northern Ireland can and should play in the context of the probation service.

Question put and agreed to.


That the draft Probation Board (Northern Ireland) Order 1982, which was laid before this House on 22nd April, be approved.

Statutory Instruments, &C

Motion made, and Question put forthwith pursuant to Standing Order No. 73A (Standing Committee on Statutory Instruments, &c.)


That the draft Hovercraft (Application of Enactments) (Amendment) Order 1982, which was laid before this House on 20th April, be approved.— [Mr. Lang.]

Question agreed to.