HC Deb 16 April 1964 vol 693 cc570-2
5. Mr. Dodds

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he is aware of the hardship caused to a large number of women and children by the disappearance each year of their husbands and fathers; what machinery is in existence to ease the burdens of those left behind; and if he will take steps to enable assistance to be given to wives to trace missing husbands, drawing on the information that exists in connection with national insurance, medical registers and electoral lists.

Mr. Woodhouse

My right hon. Friend is aware of the hardship caused to families by men who evade their maintenance obligations. The National Assistance scheme is intended to relieve this hardship to the same extent as hardship resulting from any other cause.

Arrangements already exist for the disclosure, for the purpose of maintenance and affiliation proceedings, of addresses from social security records he'd centrally by Government Departments. Full details of these arrangements were announced by my right hon. Friend's predecessor on 6th June, 1957, in reply to a Question by my hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Miss Vickers).

Mr. Dodds

Is not the hon. Gentleman aware that despite the bureaucracy with which we are surrounded a deserted wife with a houseful of children ail too often finds herself up against an official iron curtain of secrecy? Does not this serve to encourage many men to run out of their obligations and leave their families to resort to National Assistance? Will he consider the systems which are in operation in the United States and Sweden, and also consider giving financial and practical support to the Salvation Army to develop its Missing Persons Bureau, which has done such a wonderful job in mitigating misery and distress?

Mr. Woodhouse

I am indeed aware that these painful cases arise. We are always willing to consider the possibility of administrative improvements. I can assure the hon. Member that the social security records, which are very full, are available for this purpose, through the courts, and that is the proper way to proceed.

Miss Bacon

Is the hon. Member aware that it has come as a surprise to many hon. Members to be told that facilities are already available for giving this information, through the Ministry of Pensions and National Insurance? Will he make inquiries of his right hon. Friend the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance to find out how this system is operating, because I feel certain that many hon. Members have come up against the Harrier described by my hon. Friend?

Mr. Woodhouse

I am glad to have the opportunity given by this Question of drawing attention once again to this facility. In view of what the hon. Lady has said, I will look again at the possibility of drawing wider attention to it.