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Lord Bassam of Brighton: I have listened carefully to the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, and the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia. There is probably not a great deal between us. We are talking mainly about the means to the end. We think that there should be a limit on the length of time that people can serve on the board, with a maximum appointment of perhaps two consecutive terms. Some changes may be needed to effect that.

However, we need flexibility. My comments will not find favour with the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, but we think that the issues are best dealt with in regulations. Amendments Nos. 14, 16 and 17 would specify issues relating to the individuals appointed to be members of local boards. We think that the matter is best dealt with through regulations, as Schedule 1 provides. We intend to place a limit on the number of magistrates and also to restrict tenure. Therefore, I believe that we are meeting the point that has been made. However, we feel that that is probably best done in regulations. It is currently undertaken in that way. It is legislation that we have inherited. Therefore, what we are doing is very much in accordance with how such matters have worked in the past.

Amendment No. 15 would require the Home Secretary to consult a wide range of interests before making appointments. Although, on the face of it, that would be desirable, we believe that in these circumstances it would probably be unnecessary. However, robust appointment procedures which involve an element of consultation will be in place. I believe that the appointment process will find and bring forward the best individuals. We do not believe that a requirement exists, as the amendment anticipates, for extensive consultation in the way that has been set out, although we accept that consultation is very important.

Therefore, we understand the spirit behind the amendments. We agree some of the points, particularly with regard to tenure and a limit on numbers of magistrates and perhaps of other classes and categories. However, as is usually the case in such

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matters, we believe that it is best carried out through regulations. On that basis, I hope that the noble Baroness will feel able to withdraw the amendment.

Baroness Blatch: I listened carefully to the answer. I should be more reassured if I thought that the noble Lord had not found the arguments interesting and persuasive but was prepared to adopt them, albeit in regulations rather than on the face of the Bill. Do the Government have it in mind, for example, to make appointments for not less than five years? Do the Government have it in mind--they must have something in mind because presumably the regulations are being formed at this moment--to limit the tenure of office? Do they have it in mind to introduce a system to ensure that the qualifications of people appointed to the boards are appropriate for the task in hand? And do they have it in mind to consult on the matter?

If the noble Lord can say that the Government accept all those points and that they will appear in legislation, it will be more helpful than saying simply that they are very persuasive arguments but the Government will not accept the amendments.

Lord Bassam of Brighton: Perhaps I can add further clarity. We feel that board members should be appointed for three years and for a maximum of two consecutive terms. However, a change to that may be required. For that reason, I believe that putting time limits, as set out in Amendment No. 17, on the face of the Bill would deprive us of the flexibility we may need. Of course, when people apply to become members of a board, we shall set out carefully and clearly a type of job specification, listing the qualities that we expect the candidates to have. After all, that is one of the processes and procedures which has developed usefully over the past few years and which is an important element of what we might describe as the Nolan principles behind public appointments.

Baroness Blatch: I hope that the noble Lord will think again about the period of three years. I am a member of a museum of which the sponsoring department is the MoD. I am a trustee of that museum and my appointment is reviewed every three years. The Government's record, not only in the MoD but in the health department and in many other government departments, for making appointments on time and in a non-bureaucratic manner is not good.

The intention is to appoint to all those boards every three years. I do not know whether the process will be staggered, but one is in danger of having to make a whole block of appointments every three years. One will hardly be able to blink before the three years are up and one will be looking for another set of people or renewing periods of office. I believe that the nature of the work is complex and interesting. It seems to me that, if one asks people to give up their time in order to get to know the service well and to make a proper contribution when they are fresh to the work, five years is a better term than three years.

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I did not mention Amendment No. 16. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia. However, I believe that the boards themselves were also concerned that they were not in a position to change the composition, requiring, as they would, legal authority to do so. Therefore, I do not believe that that amendment would be received with dismay. I believe that the boards would probably welcome some streamlining and the fact that there would not be a predominance of a particular group in the way that, on many boards, there is at present.

Lord Bassam of Brighton: I welcome that observation. I believe that there is a degree of commonality on this issue between our Administration and the previous administration. I recollect that the previous government were keen to streamline boards and some streamlining was undertaken. I remember dealing with the consultation on that matter. I believe that streamlining will produce more effective and more focused boards, and it is helpful that there is now agreement on that. I suspect that we shall have rather smaller boards than we have had in the past. As I am sure the noble Baroness will recall from her time in the Home Office, boards tended to be 20 or 30 people strong. We believe that in the region of half that number would be more appropriate. I am grateful to the noble Baroness for her supportive comments.

Baroness Blatch: I thank the noble Lord. A great deal of informal streamlining took place on some of the boards. However, they were concerned that they were possibly trading illegally and were concerned about obtaining legal authority for what they wanted to do. Therefore, to that extent, this proposal is welcome. The Minister has given his word that he will reflect on these matters and I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 15 to 18A not moved.]

Baroness Blatch moved Amendment No. 19:

    Page 47, line 16, leave out from beginning to ("the") in line 17 and insert--

("7. Each board shall appoint a secretary and a treasurer.
7A. Regulations may provide--
(a) for").

The noble Baroness said: This amendment relates to paragraph 7 of Schedule 1. The appointment of a secretary and treasurer in the new bodies will be crucial. The regulations may provide for tenure and circumstances in which such appointees cease to hold office or may be removed or suspended from office. However, my amendment makes it explicit that the board shall appoint a secretary and a treasurer.

I understand that it is the Government's intention that the boards should comprise local people reflecting local communities. I believe that the Minister has confirmed that today. Boards will also be responsible for the stewardship and expenditure of considerable public funds and for contact with other organisations.

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Therefore, it is essential that they have access to proper advice. I know that not only am I advocating this through my amendment but the Central Probation Council also considers the posts of secretary and treasurer to be vitally important in ensuring the proper conduct of business.

Again, it is important that, instead of regulations, it is stated on the face of the Bill that each probation board should have the obligation and responsibility for appointing a secretary and a treasurer. The regulations could then provide for the conditions to be filled by the appointment. I beg to move.

Lord Phillips of Sudbury: Amendment No. 19A, in my name, achieves the same purpose with, dare I say it, neater stitching than Amendment No. 19. It is significant and I hope that the Government will accept it.

Lord Bassam of Brighton: I believe that the issue here is fairly simple. It is whether the appointment of a secretary and treasurer to local boards should be required on the face of the Bill or whether it should be left to regulations. We take the simple view that it is probably best left to regulations. It is a minor amendment but we do not believe that it necessarily improves the quality of the Bill.

As currently drafted, there is a provision for regulations to require local boards to appoint a secretary and a treasurer. This amendment would make that an absolute requirement and perhaps restrict unduly the scope of the regulations to controlling aspects of the appointments and the appointees' duties.

Management and operation of the new probation service must be strong and effective at local level. I believe that we are agreed on that point. However, that is not necessarily achieved by simply replicating in statute the present requirements for a secretary and a treasurer. Those appointments may be entirely appropriate now but they may not be so in the future. We take the view that dealing with such matters in regulations rather than on the face of the Bill provides a sensible degree of flexibility for the future. For that reason, I suggest to the noble Baroness and the noble Lord that they should not press their amendments this evening.

5.30 p.m.

Baroness Blatch: I am not going to fight the noble Lord, Lord Phillips, about which is the better amendment. I have not studied his amendment. Indeed, I saw it only for the first time this morning. If it achieves the same end, I should be more than happy to accept his amendment.

I was dismayed by that reply. My suspicions were aroused by it. Is the noble Lord saying that it is bad to put this provision on the face of the Bill because it gives an absolute responsibility to the boards for appointing a secretary and a treasurer? Is the future flexibility needed so that the Home Secretary can do that? I cannot understand what the noble Lord means when

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he refers to being tied down and to the power being an absolute one for the boards to appoint their own secretary and treasurer. The only flexibility of which I can think, which may be in the mindof the Minister, is for the Home Secretary to do that as well.

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