HL Deb 19 January 1981 vol 416 c332WA
Lord Hylton

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they will amend the Payment for Debt (Emergency Powers) Act (NI) 1971 given that circumstances have totally changed since it was passed and in view of the undesirability of compelling individuals and families to exist for long periods on a less than subsistence income.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Northern Ireland Office (Lord Elton)

The working of the Act is under continuous review and its scope is gradually being reduced. Public debt is still a major problem in Northern Ireland and at present totals more than £31 million. The Government are striving to return to as normal a system for the collection of public debt as is consistent with safeguarding public money and avoiding individual hardship. The need to retain the Payments for Debt Act will be considered when there has been experience of new procedures introduced recently. These procedures were introduced on 24th November 1980 and place the great majority of debtors on supplementary benefit outside the scope of the Payments for Debt (Emergency Provisions) Act (Northern Ireland) 1971.

Under these procedures debtors who are in receipt of supplementary benefit may have deductions from their benefit paid direct to the creditor bodies to cover current rent, rates and fuel charges together with a maximum of £1.10 per week towards each debt. The "collection charge" of 50p per week formerly levied on debtors towards administrative expenses has been abolished. All of which is a considerable benefit to debtors.

Persistent defaulters receiving other social security benefits are still being dealt with under the Payments for Debt Act when normal methods of debt recovery fail. However, deductions from their benefits are also now limited to a maximum of £1.10 per week towards each debt.