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Probation Service

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 10:45 am on 13th December 2005.

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Photo of Fiona Mactaggart Fiona Mactaggart Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Home Office) 10:45 am, 13th December 2005

The hon. Gentleman has no evidence that local probation boards are the most important, or even a substantial, contributor, although they have certainly played a very important role. Let us be clear; local probation boards make a contribution partly because of their coterminosity with the police, a function that my hon. Friend Mr. Gerrard mentioned, which has been very useful.

Another reason why we have been able to improve some of these services is that the local criminal justice boards have worked in partnership with probation officers, with the police, with the judiciary and others to improve offender management.

As the hon. Member for Cheltenham knows, we are also considering the future structure of the police force. As my hon. Friend the Member for Walthamstow rightly said, that is one of the challenges that we face. People have urged me to listen, and I agree that we must get that structure right.

There is no doubt of the benefits derived from police forces and probation services being able to work in partnership. One has only to consider community sentences and prolific offenders. There is already collaboration between police officers in basic command units and people who work in probation, and that collaboration extends to some voluntary sector partners. I know, for instance, of voluntary sector initiatives in my constituency that work with offenders and are making a contribution. We also need to get that sort of very local partnership right, and we are open to suggestions about how to do that.