HC Deb 08 December 1932 vol 272 c1768

asked the Home Secretary if he can state the number of persons imprisoned at the present time in consequence of non-payment of maintenance and affiliation orders; whether he can state the number of such debtors who are in prison because they cannot pay rather than because they will not pay; and whether he will introduce legislation to provide for differential treatment between these two classes of debtors


On the 6th instant the number of persons in prison in England and Wales in default of payments due under maintenance and affiliation orders was 595: during 1931 the daily average was 660. The difficulty of distinguishing cases in which failure to pay is due to wilful refusal or neglect from cases in which the failure is due to circumstances beyond a man's own control is often great, and I fear no legislation could remove this practical difficulty; but the question whether by any amendments of the law or of administration it is possible to decrease the number of imprisonments without decreasing the number of cases in which payments are properly enforced to the extent of the man's ability is one which deserves careful investigation, and I am considering the appointment of a committee of inquiry into methods of enforcing payment both in these cases and in certain other classes of cases dealt with by Courts of Summary Jurisdiction.


Will the right hon. Gentleman consider the propriety of providing for a review of the committal order before execution in order that the court may be satisfied that the defendant is in a financial position to meet the order?


If, as I have indicated, the committee is set up, no doubt all such matters will be considered.