§ 13. Dr. Michael Clark
To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what measures are being taken to make the arrangements for recovering maintenance from absent fathers more effective; and if he will make a statement.
§ Mr. Newton
We are reviewing the maintenance system to see what changes need to be made in the way that maintenance is assessed and collected, and plan to bring forward proposals later this year. Meanwhile, we are seeking to improve the existing system in various ways, most recently by the proposals contained in a new clause added to the Social Security Bill last week. The amount of maintenance received for lone-parent families on benefit increased from £155 million in 1988–89 to an expected £180 million in 1989–90, and we plan a further increase to £260 million in 1990–91.
§ Dr. Clark
Is my right hon. Friend aware of the considerable hardship suffered by lone wives and lone mothers when fathers refuse to pay maintenance, sometimes even after court orders have given them instructions to do so? Does my right hon. Friend agree that those absent fathers are cheating not only their own children but the taxpayer, because the £200 million to which he referred could be better spent elsewhere in the social security system?
§ Mr. Newton
Yes. I have no doubt that it is right to improve maintenance arrangements in the interests of lone parents and their children, and to ensure that financial responsibilities do not necessarily fall on the taxpayer.