HC Deb 27 April 1998 vol 311 cc19-20
18. Mr. David Hanson (Delyn)

When she expects to publish the review of the Child Support Agency. [38497]

19. Mrs. Anne Campbell (Cambridge)

What representations she has received about the reform of the Child Support Agency. [38498]

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

We believe that all children have the right to support from both their parents, wherever they live. That is why we are looking in detail at all aspects of the child support scheme to ensure that it provides an efficient and effective service to all our clients, as we promised in our manifesto.

In our consideration of child support, we have received representations from hon. Members, members of the public and a number of stakeholder groups. We aim to publish a consultation document setting out our proposals later this year.

Mr. Hanson

I thank my hon. Friend for that reply. Does he accept that the current child support system is failing children, parents and the staff who must administer it? Will he ensure that, whatever else comes out of the review, the system is simplified and made efficient, and that promptness in delivery of service to consumers is paramount?

Mr. Bradley

I should like to answer five loud yeses to those questions. I can assure my hon. Friend that, as I have said previously, all aspects of the Child Support Agency are under consideration, and we value the contributions made by hon. Members from both sides of the House.

Mrs. Campbell

Will my hon. Friend join me in deploring the appalling mess left behind by the previous Government which has caused untold damage to many of the most vulnerable people in society? When an absent parent abandons more than one family, the CSA as it is currently set up is unable to cope with the children of the second or the third abandoned family. Does my hon. Friend agree that that matter must be addressed urgently?

Mr. Bradley

My hon. Friend rightly highlights yet again the detailed complexity in the system. It needs simplifying and presenting in such a way that both partners understand not only the CSA formula, but its administration. We shall consider those matters carefully as the review continues.