Only a few days to go: We’re raising £25,000 to keep TheyWorkForYou running and make sure people across the UK can hold their elected representatives to account.

Donate to our crowdfunder

Probation Service

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 9:50 am on 13th December 2005.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of John Martin McDonnell John Martin McDonnell Labour, Hayes and Harlington 9:50 am, 13th December 2005

The number of our debates reflects the lack of available information and evidence provided to Members and therefore the number of times that Members have had to call for such debates to try to extract some information from Government on the rationale for their approach. Every time we have had the debate we have exposed the fact that there is no rationale except the privatisation of the service.

I have considered the evidence provided to the Select Committee via the various professional groups that provide the service on the ground. I speak as secretary of the justice unions group. We have been meeting on a cross-party basis for nearly two years and meeting the professional providers of the service from the probation service, the Prison Officers Association and the voluntary sector to discuss the issues that they face on the ground and the reforms that they require. None supports the approach that is being taken. It is interesting what a bashing the Select Committee's evidence gives the Government's overall approach. At the same time, it is interesting that the Government are still doggedly pursuing privatisation.

If our approach were rational, we would assess the performance of the probation service. I note from evidence provided to the Select Committee that it is performing better than ever in its history. Figures for November show that breach targets were achieved in 80 per cent. of cases, orders completed in 70 per cent. of cases and offender behaviour programmes completed by 91 per cent. of targeted cases. In addition, eight out of 10 supervisees were still in contact with their probation officer after six months' supervision, and 93 per cent. of victims were contacted within the required period. That is not a system that is imploding or failing. It is a system that, as a result of Government restructuring in 2001, additional resources and professional direction is succeeding exceptionally well. I pay tribute to the service providers themselves, the probation and prison officers who are working so hard.

The Government's proposal is about privatisation. What is that motivated by? Profit-making, of course. How do people make profits in a public service or in any service, but particularly in a privatisation? They sweat the assets. How do they do that? The first asset is the work force, so pay and conditions are reduced. Where privatisation has occurred within the prison service, salary levels have been reduced. The average pay rates for prison officers are 51 per cent. greater than for their private sector counterparts. We see a reduction in pay rates overall. When one adds the value of pensions and holiday benefits to that, there can be a difference in rates of up to 70 per cent.