HC Deb 27 April 1998 vol 311 cc16-7
14. Mr. Bill O'Brien (Normanton)

What proposals she has to include capital from the sale of the matrimonial home in the assessment of child maintenance; and if she will make a statement. [38493]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Social Security (Mr. Keith Bradley)

Money from the sale of the matrimonial home that has been earmarked for a new home or to acquire furnishings is ignored for a year. Any interest and dividends received from other capital are taken into account in the calculation of assessable income. We are looking at all aspects of the child support scheme to see where improvements can be made, in line with our manifesto commitments. We intend to consult widely on the issues raised by our reform of child support.

Mr. O'Brien

I thank my colleague for that reply. I appreciate what he and the Secretary of State are doing to try to erase the bristling anomalies arising from the Child Support Agency which we inherited.

On the issue of capital derived from the sale of the home, the parent with care has to use that capital to provide a new home for the children, whereas, in many cases, the absent parent is allowed to retain their part of the capital without any expenditure or commitment. That anomaly, which acts against the care of the children, should be addressed and erased. I appreciate the Under-Secretary's saying that he will address that issue in the review, which I hope will be completed quickly.

Mr. Bradley

May I take this opportunity to thank my hon. Friend and many other hon. Members for their significant contribution to our review of the child support system? Their knowledge and experience from individual case work in their constituencies are extremely important in guiding us as we try to unravel the problems of the Child Support Agency. I assure my hon. Friend that his point is extremely important and it will be considered as part of the general review.

Mr. Nicholas Winterton (Macclesfield)

The Under-Secretary referred to the CSA, but does he accept that it was set up with support on both sides of the House—not only the previous Conservative Government, but the Labour party, the Liberal Democrats and every other party in the House? Will he ensure that, in dealing with the matter, the House has more time and can consider what is to be done in a more measured way, so that we do not make the same prize error as we did when the House—not just the Government of the day—established the Child Support Agency?

Mr. Bradley

It is clear that the House agreed universally with the principle behind the Child Support Agency, but not with the way in which it has been set up and administered. I assure the hon. Gentleman that we shall take views from all sections of the House on the reform of the CSA. We shall take particular account of the views of the Select Committee on Social Security, which will have a valuable role in examining the proposals which we bring forward. We want to ensure that there is full consultation on the proposals so that we can try to unravel the mess that we inherited.

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