On Friday, I attended a meeting in Stoke-on-Trent involving people who had been seriously affected by the ignominious activities of the Child Support Agency. One reason for their continuing anger is their belief—justified, in my view—that any resources acquired by the agency are, in the main, not being passed on to the children whom, according to the Government, the whole mechanism is designed to support. The new clause is intended to deal with a fundamental contradiction that the Government, for some reason, have failed to recognise since the agency was set up a few years ago.
No doubt the Secretary of State will try to justify the Government's rejection of the new clause. I cannot see for the life of me—I know that the same applies to my hon. Friends—why the Government apparently intend, rather than supporting a maintenance disregard, merely to disregard the strength of our argument. If the fundamental principle is to ensure that children receive support, where is the sense in continuing to support a mechanism that will not achieve that? The new clause begins to address this serious anomaly.
The new clause was discussed in detail during that meeting on Friday. The result was a clear message to the Government: they are making a big mistake if they believe that changes that have been wrung out of them in a Bill forced on a reluctant Secretary of State—no doubt in the face of strong Treasury resistance—and will be drip-fed into the system created by the original legislation and the agency's activities, along with their rejection of a very reasonable new clause, will melt away the anger about the fundamental injustices that remain. Until such injustices are dealt with—new clause 3 tries to deal with one of them, albeit in a small way—the campaign, the justifiable protests and the anger that is felt throughout the country will not only remain but intensify.