Union backing peers to deny MPs victory

The main probation union is confident that a House of Commons vote to centralise commissioning and open up the service to the independent sector can be overturned.

The Offender Management Bill passed its third reading in the Commons by just 25 votes but Napo said it expected peers to pass a series of amendments when it goes to the House of Lords.

Assistant general secretary Harry Fletcher said the union’s main aims were to retain local commissioning of services and ensure new local probation trusts kept responsibility for core tasks.

The bill as it stands would transfer commissioning powers from local probation boards to regional offender managers. The boards would also be replaced by trusts.

Under a government amendment last week core tasks, such as pre-sentence reports and other types of advice to the courts, would remain with probation trusts for three years, when parliament will review the arrangement.

Any amendments by peers would then be voted on in the Commons.

Fletcher said last week’s vote would have been closer but for absences. He added that Labour MPs would be more inclined to vote against the government on amendments rather than a whole bill.

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