My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper.
The Question was as follows:
To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will make a statement on the collection of probation statistics in view of the advice given by the National Association of Probation Officers to its members not to carry out such work.
My Lords, Her Majesty's Government deplore the continuance by the National Association of Probation Officers of action to disrupt the collection of probation service statistics. The loss both to the Home Office and to the probation service caused by the lack of timely information, both local and national, about the service's activities is likely to be substantial and will undoubtedly prejudice the effective management of the service's work, to whose value many noble Lords and I myself have often paid tribute in this House.
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for that reply. Does he not agree that the failure to obtain adequate information through probation statistics will make it increasingly difficult to argue the case for increased resources for the probation service?
My Lords, that is something that I hope will be noticed by the probation service itself.
My Lords, can the Minister confirm that, in correspondence with the National Association of Probation Officers last August, his department expressed their readiness to discuss the setting up of negotiating machinery especially to deal with this very controversial problem of trainees' pay? Does he not agree that this would be by far the best procedure for dealing with this controversial and sensitive problem? Is he able to let the House know what progress, if any, has been achieved in the setting up of this machinery during the past five-and-a-half months?
My Lords, subject to correction, I think that the exchanges started a little more recently than last August; but I can confirm that the National Association of Probation Officers has expressed a wish for fuller involvement in discussions on the pay of probation students through the establishment of formal negotiating machinery. The Home Office has been discussing this matter with the national executive committee—and I stand corrected by my own words—since last August. These discussions are now continuing.
My Lords, stating first, if I may, my great admiration for the probation service, may I ask my noble friend the Minister why it is that they are being obstructive about this? Could he inform the House?
My Lords, the action that they have taken is about the fact that from 1983 the salary paid to probation students newly embarking on Home Office-sponsored courses was reduced. I should add that it was reduced to a level which was, on average, at least £1,000 a year higher than the points being paid to student social workers and teachers.