§ Mr. Rooker
asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if he will make a statement on the use made of his powers under the Supplementary Benefits Act 1976 as amended by the Social Security Act 1980, schedule 2, part II, sections 17 and 18, in respect of liability to maintain.
§ Mr. Newton
Section 17 of the Supplementary Benefits Act, as amended, relates to the liability upon certain individuals to maintain others for whom supplementary benefit is paid. It covers three groups: spouses in respect of the other spouse and/or their children; parents of illegitimate children in respect of those children; and individuals who have given an undertaking in terms of the Immigration Act 1971 to be responsible for the maintenance and accommodation of400W another person. Section 18 of the Act empowers the Secretary of State to pursue a civil action for maintenance against spouses or in respect of a liability to maintain a sponsored immigrant: broadly similar powers in relation to liability for illegitimate children are conferred by section 19 of the Act. The use of these powers is described comprehensively in chapter 13 of the supplementary benefits handbook. Practice is to pursue liability on a voluntary basis, rather than by use of civil action, wherever possible. No civil action has so far been taken in a case involving a sponsored immigrant. If the hon. Member knows of difficulties involving particular cases, he may wish to write to me.