HC Deb 10 January 2000 vol 342 cc16-7
16. Dr. Nick Palmer (Broxtowe)

If the Government will accelerate the transition of CSA cases to the new system as soon as possible. [102946]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Social Security (Angela Eagle)

We want to introduce the new scheme as quickly as we can, but we have to be careful not to repeat the mistakes of the previous scheme, which failed because it was introduced too quickly. By 2001, there will be 1 million cases on the CSA's books. Transferring them to the new scheme will be a major task that will need very careful preparation.

Dr. Palmer

I warmly support the Government's view on this matter. It is vital that we do not have a new catastrophe to match the one that was introduced by the previous Government with the CSA. However, many of my constituents, who are particularly enthusiastic about the reform, regret the fact that, even when a case has been transferred to the new system in perhaps three or four years' time, the adjustment to the new figure—whatever that may be—will be at the fairly leisurely rate of £5 a year. That means that many people who are now in the system will not benefit to any significant extent before their children grow up. Will my hon. Friend have another look at the matter?

Angela Eagle

We have had a very close look at all these difficult issues in the White Paper that preceded the Bill and in the Green Paper consultation that preceded that. They are difficult issues, and there is always a balance to be struck. The Government believe that they have struck the right balance by knowing that they can prudently get the system into place effectively and by warning people sufficiently about it. Many people at either end of the system are bound to feel that it is not fair, but we are being as fair and as open as we can be, and we consulted as many people as we could. I believe that we have reached a general agreement that our way forward is correct, but, as always, we shall listen.

Mr. John Bercow (Buckingham)

Under the new system, how many parents will see their entitlement to maintenance reduced and by how much?

Angela Eagle

The Opposition keep carping on about that, but the fact is that entitlement to maintenance under the new system and getting paid are two very different things. We have always taken the view, in the Green Paper and the White Paper, that it is good for everyone if people receive and are actually paid smaller sums of money instead of receiving theoretical payments.