Child Maintenance and Other Payments Bill

Part of Orders of the Day – in the House of Commons at 3:09 pm on 4th July 2007.

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Photo of Danny Alexander Danny Alexander Shadow Secretary of State (Cabinet Office) and Shadow Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster 3:09 pm, 4th July 2007

The hon. Gentleman makes an interesting and important point. It might help to support the argument that I have just made, despite the objections of the hon. Member for South Derbyshire.

It is also important to make sure that the maintenance, once collected by the CMEC, is passed on. In my constituency—I am sure that other hon. Members have had this experience—there are a large number of cases in which maintenance is collected by the Child Support Agency, as it currently is, but little or nothing is received by the parent with care. Sometimes the money seems to sit with the CSA and is not passed on. We need to make sure that there are mechanisms for passing the money on.

There is no question in my mind but that enforcement needs to be stronger and much more of a priority. I know that the Minister is taking that seriously. He has expressed that view to me in private. The lack of commitment to enforcement has been one of the great failures of the Child Support Agency. In that respect, the Bill is a mixture of good ideas and gimmicks. The proposal to name and shame on the internet is an utterly pointless gimmick.

When the Secretary of State raised the question of curfews, I was not sure whether he was rowing back slightly from what was previously proposed. I am dubious about the effectiveness of the measures. On the other hand, there is quite a lot of international experience to suggest that the proposals on passports and, in particular, driving licences can be highly effective. Having those powers in important. There is anecdotal evidence from the United States, for example, that when driving licences are threatened, long queues form the following day at the office where maintenance is paid. That is an important point.