HC Deb 19 July 2002 vol 389 cc599-600W
Mr. Hepburn

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (1) what plans he has to introduce further measures to give the Child Support Agency power to take action against parents not paying their rightful alimony; [67043]

(2) what action he will take to provide further support to single parents whose former partners are avoiding paying their rightful contribution to their child's upbringing. [67044]

Malcolm Wicks

The purpose of the child support reforms is to ensure that more children receive the maintenance that is their right.

To achieve this, the Government has legislated, in the Child Support, Pensions and Social Security Act 2000, for a new child support scheme. This is simpler than the current scheme. This reduction in complexity will translate into fewer resources being required for initial and further assessment of cases, enabling more resources to be put into ensuring that liabilities are enforced.

To support the Child Support Agency in its administration of the new scheme, a new IT system is being built. The new scheme will only be introduced when the technical backup necessary to make a success of the scheme is in place. The combination of modern technology, informing the staff of the Child Support Agency of a failure to pay maintenance, and the Agency having more resources to act on that information, should ensure that maintenance due to children is paid.

In further support of the new scheme, to deter those seeking to avoid their responsibilities, section 13 of the Act created two new criminal offences, of failing to give information and of knowingly giving false information. Conviction for either of these offences carries fines of up to £1,000. The provision has been in force since last year.

Mr. Burns

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions when he expects to introduce the changes to the CSA; and if he will make a statement. [70799]

Malcolm Wicks

I refer the hon. Gentleman to the statement made to the House on 20 March 2002 by my right hon. Friend the former Secretary of State (Mr. Darling),Official Report, columns 315–324W.