All 1 Tom Pursglove contributions to the Child Support (Enforcement) Act 2023

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Child Support (Enforcement) Bill Debate

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Department: Department for Work and Pensions

Child Support (Enforcement) Bill

Tom Pursglove Excerpts
3rd reading
Friday 17th March 2023

(1 year, 1 month ago)

Commons Chamber
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Tom Pursglove Portrait The Minister for Disabled People, Health and Work (Tom Pursglove)
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I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for South Ribble (Katherine Fletcher) for promoting the Bill here today. We have rightly heard many tributes to her during the debate. She has been a dextrous stunt double for our hon. Friend the Member for Stroud (Siobhan Baillie). I can think of no better steward or co-sponsor of this Bill to deliver on these Third Reading proceedings today, and she should be incredibly proud of the contribution that she is making to the Bill’s passage. I am also most grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Stroud and I congratulate her on navigating the Bill successfully through its previous stages in the House.

I welcome the broad cross-party support that we have heard from both sides of the House during the debate. That has been reflected in the various contributions, many of which have been impactful and drawn on constituency cases brought to colleagues’ attention. In that spirit, I thank the Opposition for their support for the Bill and extend my gratitude to all hon. Members who spoke during previous stages of the Bill to highlight important points. I am appreciative of their insight. I pay tribute to the Minister responsible for social mobility, youth and progression—the Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, my hon. Friend the Member for Mid Sussex (Mims Davies)—who has so excellently supported the Bill through to this stage, and to my noble Friend Viscount Younger of Leckie, who has recently taken over ministerial responsibility for the CMS. He has undoubtedly hit the ground running and has been strenuous in his efforts to further improve the service that it provides. I know that he is wholeheartedly committed to continuing in the other place the support for the Bill’s important measures that it is my privilege to provide in its final stages in this place.

As my hon. Friend the Member for South Ribble highlighted so eloquently, the Bill is so important for securing money for children more quickly from parents who fail or who simply refuse to support them. We all understand how child maintenance payments can play an effective role in helping to lift children out of poverty and enhance the life outcomes of children in separated families. The Government are absolutely committed to improving the efficacy of the CMS. The Bill is another significant step forward to ensure that the right action is taken at the right time.

I know and understand why the performance of the CMS is a matter of concern for many colleagues who regularly deal, as I do, with inquiries from constituents who may feel that they are not receiving the level of service that they and their children deserve. However, the CMS has made and continues to make substantial improvements to the service that it provides to many of our most vulnerable constituents. It is committed to delivering service and support to the highest standard and is working hard to transform itself into a more customer-focused, digital organisation, which I am sure is something we all welcome. Although there is still much more we can do, the CMS should no longer carry the stigma with which its predecessors were associated.

That is where I would argue the Bill has an important part to play. It will speed up the enforcement process, which in practical terms will mean getting money to children more quickly, as many hon. Members highlighted in their contributions this morning. It will remove an administrative step while retaining an important appeal right. I understand that the appeal mechanism is tried and tested and works well elsewhere.

It is unsurprising that the Bill has received such a wide welcome. Ultimately, there is no disadvantage to anyone in speeding up the processes and removing the burden on them. The Bill will achieve that by ending the current situation, which requires us to get a liability order through the court. Let me put that into context: applications to the court for a liability order typically take up to 20 weeks to process, which means five months in which no tangible activity can take place to get money to children who are waiting for it. That cannot be right, and it is certainly not preferable. We also want to focus on reducing the burdens on courts as a result of the processes they have to work through, which we want to see streamlined wherever possible.

After the Bill comes into force, we will make regulations under the affirmative procedure, which will allow further scrutiny before their commencement. As my hon. Friend the Member for South Ribble explained, hon. Members and their constituents can be assured that the powers will be used proportionately. The regulations will be developed to help provide that assurance. The secondary legislation setting out the appeal provisions in more detail will follow the affirmative procedure, as I say, so hon. Members will be able to vote on our proposals.

More broadly, we are looking at our enforcement processes and carefully considering how we can make the system work more efficiently overall. Hon. Members may be aware of the excellent work that the Department and my hon. Friend the Member for Hastings and Rye (Sally-Ann Hart) are doing to ensure that parents using the service who have suffered any form of domestic abuse will benefit from the additional protections in the Child Support Collection (Domestic Abuse) Bill, which went through its Report stage and received a Third Reading in this House on 3 March. I look forward to following that Bill’s successful progression in the other place.

In conclusion, it is to the huge credit of my hon. Friend the Member for Stroud that she has successfully brought the Bill forward on a cross-party basis and navigated its passage through its earlier stages, most ably supported by my hon. Friend the Member for South Ribble today. Let me also place on record my thanks and those of my ministerial colleagues to officials for all their efforts in helping to get the Bill to this stage and for the work that I know that they will do to help us take it forward.

With that, I am delighted to restate that the Government support the Bill and will continue to support it as it moves through Parliament. I wish it every success. As my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Aaron Bell) said, ultimately, this reform is about getting money to children quicker. It is very much a reform with children at its heart.

Katherine Fletcher Portrait Katherine Fletcher
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With the leave of the House, I take the opportunity to thank the Minister and Members on both sides of the House for their support. I extend my appreciation and that of my hon. Friend the Member for Stroud (Siobhan Baillie) to the Public Bill Office and officials in the Department for Work and Pensions for their guidance.

I am very grateful for the cross-party support that the Bill has received. We have heard from Members from all the nations of the United Kingdom. I particularly give my thanks to the hon. Member for Rutherglen and Hamilton West (Margaret Ferrier) and my hon. Friends the Members for Cities of London and Westminster (Nickie Aiken), for Clwyd South (Simon Baynes), for Heywood and Middleton (Chris Clarkson), for South West Hertfordshire (Mr Mohindra), for Orpington (Gareth Bacon), for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Aaron Bell) and for Southend West (Anna Firth).

I would point out that my hon. Friend the Member for Stroud who, as we have all acknowledged, has done so much work on the Bill, has legal training, so I will leave it Members to decide whether potential libel has been committed today by their suggesting that I could possibly be her stunt double. I know that she believes very passionately in this Bill, as do I, and it is an honour to pick it up. On behalf of people in South Ribble and across the country, I am proud to support it. It will make essential improvements to child maintenance processes and, importantly, it will get money to children more quickly. I wish it success as it moves to the other place.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read the Third time and passed.