Is my right hon. Friend aware of the facility with which husbands can avoid making payments? Is she also aware of the humiliation caused to many deserted wives by the manner in which they have to collect their pay- ments? Does not my right hon. Friend think that this matter has been going on for far too long, and ought it not to be dealt with urgently?
As was explained in the letter to my hon. Friend, at the present time, to save many of these women from what I consider to be the greatest indignity, that of having to go to court to see whether the money is there when a court order has been made, provision has been made for them to get payment like many other people in the country, though the Supplementary Benefits Commission: as far as I am concerned, there is little or no indignity there. There are others whom it is impossible to help in this way. These are the people about whom we are greatly concerned and we are trying to find a solution to the problem.
Can the right hon. Lady give an assurance that where the Supplementary Benefits Commission is helping these women who are getting maintenance allowances, publicity is given to the fact that the Commission will handle the maintenance allowances for them, thus ensuring regular payments?
Certainly. I think that the number of women who are already receiving payment in this way shows that it is pretty well known throughout the country that this can be done.
May I ask the right hon. Lady what efforts her Department makes to trace husbands who desert their wives? It seems that many of them desert their wives, knowing that they will be looked after by her Department.
I think that quite a number of men who desert their wives hope that their wives will be looked after by my Department. This is one of the problems to which we have to give great consideration in any further move forward. I assure the hon. Lady that every effort was made by the National Assistance Board, and is now made by the Supplementary Benefits Commission, to trace these men and get them to accept their responsibilities.