Shailesh Vara voices his concerns about excessive bureaucracy and centralisation in the probation service.
Mr. Shailesh Vara (North-West Cambridgeshire) (Con): What plans he has to improve the performance of the probation service. 
The Secretary of State for Justice and Lord Chancellor (Mr. Jack Straw): The performance of the probation service has improved significantly in recent years from the variable and insufficiently supervised base that I found on becoming Home Secretary in 1997. Since then funding has increased by 70 per cent., staff numbers by 49 per cent., and case load by 53 per cent. All but one of the 41 probation areas are meeting or exceeding their targets, but the whole service is committed to driving up standards further. I have no doubt that the introduction of probation trusts is providing its own dynamic for change and improvement.
Mr. Vara: I am grateful to the Secretary of State for his answer, but is he aware that, owing to the Government's obsession with bureaucracy and centralisation, the probation service now uses a plumber from Birmingham to fix a loo seat in Norwich, and an electrician from Devon to change a light bulb in Birmingham?
Mr. Straw: I think that the hon. Gentleman is referring to the rather unsatisfactory shared-facilities arrangement that was entered into some years ago. I was not aware that it had led to the situation that he has described, but I am certainly aware of concern about it. I have received representations about the arrangement from many probation officers and probation trusts, and we are trying to disentangle the service from it.