§ Mr. John Patten
[holding answer 10 July 1990]: I have been asked to reply.
The Government are concerned that so few lone-parent families receive regular payments of maintenance and are taking a number of steps to improve the position.
The Home Office has recently announced proposals to improve enforcement of maintenance orders in England and Wales by increasing the courts' powers to prescribe the method of payment. Under these proposals an attachment of earnings order could be made at the same time as a court makes an order for maintenance without waiting for the absent parent to default.
The procedure to collect maintenance by attachment of earnings orders will be as it is now. Courts will also be able to order maintenance payments to be made by, for example, standing order, direct to the maintenance creditor. This method would be appropriate for the self-employed absent parent. The Department of Social Security has already taken steps to improve the effectiveness of its action under the present system. Measures in the Social Security Bill include power for the Secretary of State to enforce a claimant's private maintenance order if it falls into default while she is receiving income support.
We are proceeding with urgency on the wide-ranging review of the maintenance system examining where changes need to be made in the longer term.