Courts Act 2003 (Consequential Amendment) Order 2006

– in the House of Lords at 8:05 pm on 20th March 2006.

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Photo of Lord Evans of Temple Guiting Lord Evans of Temple Guiting Government Whip, Government Whip 8:05 pm, 20th March 2006

rose to move, That the draft order laid before the House on 6 February be approved [18th Report from the Joint Committee].

Photo of Lord Evans of Temple Guiting Lord Evans of Temple Guiting Government Whip, Government Whip

My Lords, this order is required to amend Section 33(5) of the Child Support Act 1991. The effect of the amendment is to substitute the reference in Section 33(5) to,

"the register of judgments held in accordance with Section 73 of the County Courts Act 1984" with,

"the register held in accordance with Section 98 of the Courts Act 2003".

Much of the recent debate about the future of the Child Support Agency has focused on ensuring that it has adequate powers of enforcement. This order is merely a tidying-up exercise. It will allow the CSA's current powers to continue.

The amendment is consequential to the commencement of Section 98(1)(c) of the Courts Act 2003, which comes into force on 6 April, when, under the provisions of Section 109(3) and Schedule 10 to the Courts Act 2003, Section 73 of the County Courts Act will be repealed.

On 6 April, the register of county court judgments will be replaced by the register of judgments, orders and fines. The register will continue to be kept for the department by Registry Trust Ltd, which has satisfactorily maintained the register of county court judgments since 1985 and the register of CSA liability orders since 1991. Registry Trust Ltd is a non-profit-making company limited by guarantee which operates under the terms of a contract with the Lord Chancellor. This agreement is in the process of being revised to ensure adequate provisions are in place to support the new regulations and to protect the taxpayer's interests in relation to the transfer of undertakings to another contractor, if necessary.

The purpose of Section 33(5) of the Child Support Act 1991 is to allow the Child Support Agency to register any liability orders made for the recovery of arrears of maintenance payments on the register of county court judgments as if they were county court judgments registered under Section 73 of the County Courts Act 1984. The register of county court judgments is a public register that is open to inspection by anyone, and the presence of an unpaid liability in the register may affect the registered debtor's ability to obtain employment, credit or other services.

The effect of this order will be that the CSA will continue to register its liability orders as it currently does, but they will form part of the register created under Section 98 of the Courts Act 2003; that is, the register of judgments, orders and fines. I commend the draft order to the House.

Moved, That the draft order laid before the House on 6 February be approved [18th Report from the Joint Committee].—(Lord Evans of Temple Guiting.)

Photo of Lord Kingsland Lord Kingsland Shadow Lord Chancellor, Constitutional Affairs, Shadow Lord Chancellor, Parliament

My Lords, as the Minister has just said, this order contains a consequential amendment to the repeal of Section 73 of the County Courts Act. Its effect is that the Child Support Agency will still be able to register its liability orders, but instead of forming part of the register of county court judgments, they will form part of the register of judgments, orders and fines that was established under Section 98 of the Courts Act 2003. This order is purely a consequential amendment and, as such, we support its approval by your Lordships' House.

Photo of Lord Evans of Temple Guiting Lord Evans of Temple Guiting Government Whip, Government Whip

My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble Lord for his great support, and to the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, for smiling at me across the Chamber and nodding his assent.

On Question, Motion agreed to.