Child Support (Service Personnel)

Oral Answers to Questions — Social Security – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 5 March 2001.

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Photo of Caroline Flint Caroline Flint Labour, Don Valley 12:00, 5 March 2001

What action he has taken in collaboration with the Secretary of State for Defence about revision of the services pay regulations that prevent Child Support Agency deductions of earnings orders being implemented on service personnel. [150489]

Photo of Angela Eagle Angela Eagle Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department of Social Security)

In 99 per cent. of child support cases involving service men, the full amount of maintenance is deducted from their pay. In less than 1 per cent. of cases, the full amount is not met because it exceeds the maximum deduction rates that are set by the Ministry of Defence. We have discussed with the Ministry of Defence the problems encountered with this small minority of cases.

Photo of Caroline Flint Caroline Flint Labour, Don Valley

I thank my hon. Friend for that answer, but I find it a little disappointing. I have campaigned on this issue for a number of years, and although it affects only a small percentage of families, it seems strange that we are saying that someone who joins the Army can, in some way, escape their CSA payments. May I urge my hon. Friend to look into the matter, and particularly into the circumstances in which service personnel who leave the service get an end-of-service payment? The CSA should be urged to liaise with the Ministry of Defence to see whether, at that point, before the service man disappears, the payments that he should have made could be met in full.

Photo of Angela Eagle Angela Eagle Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department of Social Security)

I know that my hon. Friend has a particularly difficult individual case to deal with and that she has been working hard for her constituent with respect to it, but 99 per cent., which is the compliance rate in the services, compares very well with the compliance rate in civilian cases, which stands at 72 per cent.

Photo of Julian Brazier Julian Brazier Conservative, Canterbury

In confirming what the Minister has said, may I urge her not to follow the recommendation of the hon. Member for Don Valley (Caroline Flint)? Will the Minister confirm not only that the services compliance rate is higher than in civilian life, but that, unlike civilians, service men and their families face a huge range of disadvantages? They are taxed as though they are resident in the United Kingdom, a range of UK benefits are not available to them and, when they leave the services, they are grossly disadvantaged in the housing market.

Photo of Angela Eagle Angela Eagle Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department of Social Security)

I have some sympathy with what the hon. Gentleman says, and the compliance rates do compare favourably. The maximum deduction rates—25 per cent. and 50 per cent.—were put in the in-service rules for a particular reason following experience in the second world war. My hon. Friend the Member for Don Valley (Caroline Flint) has had a debate with the Ministry of Defence about the matter and she needs to continue to make representations there.