Letter from Steve Webb, Liberal Democrats Spokesperson

This was in response to a brief early version of the paper ""Child Support should be for Children" - A proposal for reform".

Steve Webb MP
Liberal Democrat Member of Parliament for Northavon
House of Commons, London SW1A 0AA

Andrew Stunell MP

17 July 2002

Dear Andrew

Thank you for your letter dated 28 June 2002 concerning your constituent, Mr Barry Pearson's concerns about the Child Support Agency.

Your constituent raises some interesting issues about the relationship between the CSA and the Treasury and the financial benefit of one to the other.

While I agree with him that the state should not interfere in issues that do not concern it, it is the case that by having a central body to administer child support and to enforce its payment, the financial burden on the Treasury is reduced.

An important issue that your constituent does not refer to is that child maintenance tops up low wages and therefore its removal would act as a disincentive for Parents With care to take paid work, which in turn would lead to greater reliance on the benefits system and a further drain on the Treasury.

While I believe that Child Support Agency carries out functions that are essential, the agency has been riddled with problems since it was set up in 1993, and this has lead, among other things, to individuals being assessed in a manner that is unfair and over complicated. Consequently, we have been looking into viable alternatives to the CSA and we propose that the functions of the CSA - the administration and collection of maintenance payments - are transferred to the Inland Revenue, which already plays a key role in administering child support, and which has all of the information and expertise necessary to ensure that payments are assessed and collected in an efficient and fair manner.

I hope that the above is useful to your constituent. Please do thank him on my behalf, for taking the time to write to us with his analysis. With regard to the questions that he would like tabled, I would suggest that instead of putting these down as PQs that you write to Andrew Smith, the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, outlining your constituent's concerns and asking him to comment.

Best Wishes

Steve Webb MP

Page last updated: 9 September, 2005