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Lord Phillips of Sudbury: My Lords, we on these Benches wish to identify ourselves entirely with what the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, has just said. Names are important. These boards will have few enough powers and dignity; they are entitled to have a name that means something.

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, we do not disagree with the name "local probation boards". However, we disagree that that needs to be on the face of the Bill. I think that, in practice, they are likely to be called local probation boards. However, we do not see the need to use the word "probation" in the formal legal text. For that reason I argue that the amendment is otiose and unnecessary. I invite the House to reject it.

Baroness Blatch: My Lords, if my amendment is unnecessary, why state that they shall be known as local boards? That seems absurd. They are to be called something in law; that is, local boards. The noble Lord says that, in practice, they are likely to be called local probation boards and does not suggest that it is wrong to call them that. I beg to move.

31 Oct 2000 : Column 799

3.33 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 3) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 147; Not-Contents, 114.

Division No. 2


Aberdare, L.
Ackner, L.
Addington, L.
Alderdice, L.
Allenby of Megiddo, V.
Anelay of St Johns, B.
Ashcroft, L.
Astor of Hever, L.
Attlee, E.
Avebury, L.
Barker, B.
Beaumont of Whitley, L.
Blaker, L.
Blatch, B.
Bledisloe, V.
Brabazon of Tara, L.
Bradshaw, L.
Bridges, L.
Brougham and Vaux, L.
Burnham, L. [Teller]
Buscombe, B.
Byford, B.
Caithness, E.
Campbell of Alloway, L.
Campbell of Croy, L.
Carlisle of Bucklow, L.
Carnarvon, E.
Carnegy of Lour, B.
Cavendish of Furness, L.
Chadlington, L.
Clark of Kempston, L.
Clement-Jones, L.
Colwyn, L.
Cope of Berkeley, L.
Courtown, E.
Craig of Radley, L.
Cranborne, V.
Dahrendorf, L.
Dean of Harptree, L.
Denham, L.
Dholakia, L.
Dixon-Smith, L.
Eames, L.
Elles, B.
Elliott of Morpeth, L.
Elton, L.
Ezra, L.
Feldman, L.
Ferrers, E.
Flather, B.
Forsyth of Drumlean, L.
Gardner of Parkes, B.
Glenarthur, L.
Glentoran, L.
Goodhart, L.
Greaves, L.
Hanham, B.
Harris of Greenwich, L.
Harris of Richmond, B.
Hayhoe, L.
Henley, L. [Teller]
Higgins, L.
Hodgson of Astley Abbotts, L.
Hogg, B.
Hooper, B.
Howe of Aberavon, L.
Howe, E.
Howell of Guildford, L.
Hurd of Westwell, L.
Hylton, L.
Jacobs, L.
Jellicoe, E.
Jopling, L.
Kimball, L.
Kirkham, L.
Knight of Collingtree, B.
Lester of Herne Hill, L.
Liverpool, E.
Ludford, B.
Luke, L.
Lyell, L.
Mackay of Ardbrecknish, L.
Maddock, B.
Marlesford, L.
Masham of Ilton, B.
Mayhew of Twysden, L.
McColl of Dulwich, L.
McNally, L.
Methuen, L.
Miller of Hendon, B.
Montrose, D.
Mowbray and Stourton, L.
Murton of Lindisfarne, L.
Newby, L.
Nicholson of Winterbourne, B.
Noakes, B.
Norfolk, D.
Northbrook, L.
Northesk, E.
Northover, B.
O'Cathain, B.
Park of Monmouth, B.
Peyton of Yeovil, L.
Phillips of Sudbury, L.
Platt of Writtle, B.
Rawlings, B.
Redesdale, L.
Renfrew of Kaimsthorn, L.
Rennard, L.
Renton, L.
Roberts of Conwy, L.
Rodgers of Quarry Bank, L.
Roper, L.
Rotherwick, L.
Russell, E.
Scott of Needham Market, B.
Seccombe, B.
Selsdon, L.
Sharp of Guildford, B.
Sharples, B.
Shaw of Northstead, L.
Shutt of Greetland, L.
Skelmersdale, L.
Smith of Clifton, L.
Soulsby of Swaffham Prior, L.
Strathclyde, L.
Taverne, L.
Tenby, V.
Thomas of Gwydir, L.
Thomas of Walliswood, B.
Tordoff, L.
Trumpington, B.
Vivian, L.
Waddington, L.
Wade of Chorlton, L.
Wallace of Saltaire, L.
Walmsley, B.
Walpole, L.
Warnock, B.
Watson of Richmond, L.
Weatherill, L.
Wilcox, B.
Williams of Crosby, B.
Williamson of Horton, L.
Willoughby de Broke, L.
Windlesham, L.
Young, B.


Acton, L.
Ahmed, L.
Alli, L.
Amos, B.
Ampthill, L.
Andrews, B.
Archer of Sandwell, L.
Ashley of Stoke, L.
Bach, L.
Barnett, L.
Bassam of Brighton, L.
Berkeley, L.
Bernstein of Craigweil, L.
Billingham, B.
Blackstone, B.
Bragg, L.
Brennan, L.
Brooke of Alverthorpe, L.
Brookman, L.
Bruce of Donington, L.
Burlison, L.
Carter, L. [Teller]
Castle of Blackburn, B.
Clarke of Hampstead, L.
Cledwyn of Penrhos, L.
Clinton-Davis, L.
Cocks of Hartcliffe, L.
Crawley, B.
Davies of Coity, L.
Desai, L.
Donoughue, L.
Dormand of Easington, L.
Dubs, L.
Elder, L.
Farrington of Ribbleton, B.
Faulkner of Worcester, L.
Fitt, L.
Fyfe of Fairfield, L.
Gale, B.
Gibson of Market Rasen, B.
Goldsmith, L.
Goudie, B.
Gould of Potternewton, B.
Graham of Edmonton, L.
Grenfell, L.
Hardy of Wath, L.
Harris of Haringey, L.
Harrison, L.
Haskel, L.
Hayman, B.
Hilton of Eggardon, B.
Hollis of Heigham, B.
Howells of St. Davids, B.
Howie of Troon, L.
Hughes of Woodside, L.
Hunt of Kings Heath, L.
Irvine of Lairg, L. (Lord Chancellor)
Islwyn, L.
Janner of Braunstone, L.
Jay of Paddington, B. (Lord Privy Seal)
Jeger, B.
Jenkins of Putney, L.
Judd, L.
Lea of Crondall, L.
Levy, L.
Lipsey, L.
Lofthouse of Pontefract, L.
Mackenzie of Framwellgate, L.
Marsh, L.
Mason of Barnsley, L.
Massey of Darwen, B.
McIntosh of Haringey, L. [Teller]
McIntosh of Hudnall, B.
Merlyn-Rees, L.
Mishcon, L.
Morgan, L.
Nicol, B.
Parekh, L.
Peston, L.
Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L.
Puttnam, L.
Ramsay of Cartvale, B.
Randall of St. Budeaux, L.
Rea, L.
Rendell of Babergh, B.
Richard, L.
Roll of Ipsden, L.
Sainsbury of Turville, L.
Sawyer, L.
Scotland of Asthal, B.
Serota, B.
Shepherd, L.
Shore of Stepney, L.
Simon, V.
Slim, V.
Stone of Blackheath, L.
Strabolgi, L.
Strange, B.
Symons of Vernham Dean, B.
Thornton, B.
Tomlinson, L.
Turnberg, L.
Turner of Camden, B.
Varley, L.
Warner, L.
Warwick of Undercliffe, B.
Wedderburn of Charlton, L.
Whitaker, B.
Whitty, L.
Wilkins, B.
Williams of Elvel, L.
Williams of Mostyn, L.
Woolmer of Leeds, L.
Young of Old Scone, B.

Resolved in the affirmative, and amendment agreed to accordingly.

31 Oct 2000 : Column 801

3.44 p.m.

Schedule 1 [Local Boards]:

Baroness Blatch moved Amendment No. 4:

    Page 52, line 10, at end insert--

("( ) The chief officer is to be appointed by the Board with the approval of the Secretary of State.").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, again I emphasise the importance of these amendments. The Minister appeared to misunderstand the arguments put to him in Committee. It is essential to have clear and effective line management. Responsibility, ownership and accountability at the point of operation in the service is fundamental.

The relationship of the chief officer to other staff and to the board is also critical. For the employer of the chief officer to be the Secretary of State and the employers of all other staff to be the boards will create difficulties and possibly at times divided loyalties. For example, where does responsibility or, even worse, culpability, lie should something go wrong especially if the root cause of the problem is conflicting messages from the Secretary of State and the local board?

It is clear that the Secretary of State is concerned about control. However, the Secretary of State will have the power to approve the appointment of the chief officer to each area. The Secretary of State can appoint and, if necessary in extremis, remove the board. The Secretary of State has control over 100 per cent of the funding. The Secretary of State sets overall aims and objectives for the service. The Secretary of State sets national standards and performance targets. The Secretary of State will receive advice and reports from the inspectorate. Therefore, the Secretary of State will lose nothing by allowing the board to appoint the chief officer. These arguments were well argued in Committee. Nothing that has been said by the Minister then, in letters--we are deeply appreciative of all letters sent by the Minister--or in debate has satisfied our concerns.

I ask the Minister to agree to the amendments. They are essential for the proper delivery of the service. I beg to move.

Lord Phillips of Sudbury: My Lords, we on these Benches concur strongly with what the noble Baroness said. The powers and responsibilities of what we can now call local probation boards under the Bill are extremely ill categorised. One is used to talking of power without responsibility. As the Bill is drafted, the boards will have responsibility and no power--an even worse state of affairs. At Second Reading, I called them "eunuch boards". I think that that is not an unfair or inaccurate way of describing the conjugation of powers and responsibilities provided for in the Bill.

I hope not to detain the House for too long, but draw attention to Clause 5 in which the functions of the local board are set out. They are, first,

    "to make arrangements for ensuring that sufficient provision is made for the purposes mentioned in section 1".

31 Oct 2000 : Column 802

Clause 1(1) states that,

    "(a) courts ... be given assistance in determining the appropriate sentences to pass ... and

    (b) the supervision and rehabilitation of such persons".

Those are two enormous and crucially important aspects of government and state policy. Those boards will have to ensure that sufficient provision is made for their role in giving effect to community orders, supervising persons released from prison on licence, and providing accommodation in approved premises. These are major matters of state criminal policy.

As the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, enumerated, the powers by which the boards are supposed to undertake these heavy responsibilities are almost non-existent. At every turn the Secretary of State has retained the whip hand: over finance, policy, procedures, appointments where he has a monopoly, property and contracts. What is left for those boards to undertake of their own volition and power? Precious little.

It may be asked: why bother about the appointment of the chief probation officer? We believe that this is a sine qua non for any cohesion, clarity or loyalty. One does not have to go to business school to know that a house divided against itself will not stand. One does not have to go to management consultants to know that a man cannot have two masters; and the chief probation officer certainly will. Will he look to the Home Secretary or to his or her board?

The answer is obscure, except that we know that in the ultimate the appointment is made by the Secretary of State. I can see two common situations which will plague not only the board and the chair of the board but in particular the poor chief probation officer. One example is when the CPO is out of sympathy with the line agreed by the board on any matter relating to those duties. Perhaps he or she should then run off to the Home Secretary and say, "Mr Home Secretary, they are requiring me to do this. I do not think it is right. Will you please override them?" That will always be a temptation, but I suspect that it would simply sow doubt, confusion and unhappiness where there should be unity and effectiveness.

Another example is when the board adopts a different line from Home Office policy on the delivery of its mighty duties. What is the CPO to do then? They know what their employment master plans or wants, but they also know what their local board is planning and what local circumstances may require.

One does not have to go far back in history to know that some Home Secretaries have taken a very strong line that has not found sympathy with the existing committees. I suspect that many on the Government Benches were extremely happy that the previous Home Secretary could not order a chief probation officer to take certain actions in defiance of the wishes of the local board. For those and many other reasons, we strongly favour the amendment.

Finally, there is no precedent. The relationship of chief constables with their committees is not as set down here. The committee appoints the chief constable. The same is true of health trusts or

31 Oct 2000 : Column 803

magistrates' courts committees. Not even the most draconian holding company would require the chief executive and director of one of its subsidiary operating boards to be appointed by head office rather than by the board. Of course, head office will have a say, but the appointment will be made by the board. To do otherwise is to diminish the standing of the board.

I understand that the Government want a national service, but the amendment is not inconsistent with a national service. In fact, it makes the prospect of an effective national service more likely. Able people will not sit on the boards if they are stripped of all meaning. The amendment would restore a little power, authority and dignity to them.

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