HC Deb 25 February 1971 vol 812 cc843-5
Q5. Mr. Dalyell

asked the Prime Minister what steps he is taking to coordinate the activities of the Treasury, Inland Revenue, the Home Office with police responsibilities, the Attorney-General, the Scottish Office and the Department of Health and Social Security to create a system whereby alimony or aliment awarded by court order is more efficiently collected from men and paid to separated or divorced women.

The Prime Minister

The Government recognise the case for improving the present machinery for the enforcement of maintenance orders, and are examining what changes can be made. In addition, the Finer Committee is currently considering the financial and other problems of the one-parent family.

Mr. Dalyell

Since, in our constituency work, M.P.s in all parts of the House are more and more confronted with this increasingly pathetic problem of divorcées and separated women who are simply not getting what was awarded to them by the court, and since lawyers do not really like touching these cases, could Downing Street influence be used to ask this question of Whitehall, the Department of Social Security and the Inland Revenue, "Are you really sure that, in this day and age, the tenets which you have held about tracing individuals, on the whole question of secrecy and confidentiality and on the administrative objections are still as valid as they once were?"?

The Prime Minister

I very much agree with the hon. Gentleman about the seriousness of this problem and about the hardship which it causes. At the same time, he will recognise that the question of the ethics involved is one which needs careful consideration. That we are giving to it. In fact, the Administration of Justice Act, 1970, will go some way to helping in this situation, as I think the hon. Gentleman will recognise. As the House knows, he has himself presented a Bill. We have not yet had an opportunity of studying it, but we will do so with great interest when it is printed.

Mr. Fidler

Is my right hon. Friend aware of the distress and hardship caused in a number of cases in magistrates' courts where the clerks and others fail to take the prompt action which they should to see that the persons responsible for these maintenance dues are chased along to make the payments?

The Prime Minister

It was the purpose of the Administration of Justice Act, 1970, to speed up the application of the orders and also to ensure continuity of payment once they were made. When this comes into force this year, I believe that it will deal with the point which my hon. Friend has made.

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