HC Deb 12 December 1995 vol 268 cc827-8
10. Mr. Kirkwood

To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what further representations he has received in respect of abolishing the Child Support Agency. [3578]

Mr. Andrew Mitchell

Representations from the Liberal Democrats and other irresponsible groups seeking the abolition of the CSA are far outweighed by those from parents with care seeking stronger agency action in arranging and collecting maintenance due.

Mr. Kirkwood

I thank the Minister for that answer. All hon. Members on both sides of the House are hearing about distressing cases of people who are willing to make a contribution to their families, who are invariably in second families, and who are simply unable financially to make such a contribution. If the Minister is not prepared to abolish this Act because it is too inflexible, recognising the importance of the principle of parents making contributions to their families, will he consider those people who want to help but financially cannot, and who are being put into personal bankruptcy or perpetual debt as a result of the inflexible implementation of the Act?

Mr. Mitchell

Obviously, I shall look at any case that the hon. Gentleman brings to me. What he said today ignores the changes that Parliament made earlier this year. He will know that the Government have brought in a 30 per cent. limit, which means that no absent parent can pay more than 30 per cent. of his net income in current maintenance. Parliament has made changes, and there are further changes to come. There will be 90 technical changes to the work done by the child support computer in January and 10 days ago, we took 64 regulations through the House of Commons. Those changes will ensure that the Child Support Agency delivers the sort of service that absent parents and parents with care have a right to expect.

Mr. Jenkin

Does my hon. Friend agree that, in order to ensure that the maximum amount of money goes to parents who are living alone with children, we must do all that we can to continue improving the credibility of the CSA? We can do without the irresponsible ideas of the Liberal Democrats and the irresponsible comments from those on the Labour Front Bench who have suggested that they would not rule out the abolition of the CSA. Is it not time that those hon. Members supported the all-party consensus on CSA policy, and that we continue to support the CSA?

Mr. Mitchell

I do not believe everything that I read in the Observer, and I am sure that the Labour Front-Bench team will remain true to the principles of the Child Support Act 1991. The CSA is improving significantly. Last year, it collected six times more in maintenance payments than in the previous year, and this year it has collected 100 per cent. more in maintenance support. The CSA is tracing absent parents, and it is making certain that its performance is improving in a whole range of areas. That is what the figures showed last month, and I have every confidence that they will continue to show that in the months to come.