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Council Tax

Mr. Willetts: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, pursuant to his answer of 5 July 2001, Official Report, column 271W, on council tax, what proportion of pensioner households and how many pensioners in total, paid (a) more than five per cent., (b) more than 10 per cent. and (c) more than 15 per cent. of their gross income in council tax in 2000–01. [42546]

Mr. Ian McCartney: Forty per cent. of pensioner households in Great Britain paid more than 5 per cent. of their gross income (net of council tax benefit) in council tax in 2000–01, 8 per cent. of pensioner households paid more than 10 per cent., and 2 per cent. paid more than 15 per cent.

From April 2002 this Government will be spending an extra #6 billion a year in real terms on pensioners as a result of policies, including the Minimum Income Guarantee, free TV licences and Winter Fuel Payments, introduced since 1997.








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Housing Benefit Regulations

Pete Wishart: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions when the proposed amendment to the Housing Benefit Regulations will be brought into force to enable an ex-owner to claim housing benefit provided five years have elapsed since he or she ceased to own a property. [44802]

Malcolm Wicks [holding reply 21 March 2002]: The regulations were amended by SI 2001 No. 487, The Housing Benefit (General) Amendment Regulations 2001, which were laid before Parliament on 27 February 2001 and came into force on 21 May 2001.

Child Support

Mr. Kirkwood: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will place in the Library a copy of (a) each of the CSA's monthly Business Information Bulletins since April 2001, (b) the CSA Board's quarterly review of its progress, (c) the CSA's Risk Management Framework and report on Risk Management and (d) the CSA's Latest Controls report from December 2001. [32548]

Malcolm Wicks: The administration of the Child Support Agency is a matter for the Chief Executive, Mr. Doug Smith. He will write to the hon. Member.

Mr. Andrew Mitchell: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what consideration will be given in the new child support system to fathers who have identical incomes and costs of travel to work and (a) who have different housing costs, and (b) who have former partners who have different incomes. [44434]

Malcolm Wicks: We believe a simple scheme is the right way forward, because the complexity of the current scheme is one of the major causes of the current administrative problems. Every non-resident parent has different costs or responsibilities. Any attempt to take account of them all would lead to the reinvention of the complexity of the current formula.

The Government accepts that some parents have special, exceptional expenses that make complete reliance on a percentage-based assessment unreasonable. That is the justification for the variations system.

Mr. Andrew Mitchell: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what the average maintenance assessment is for child support; and what the estimated average maintenance calculation is under the new scheme. [44435]

Malcolm Wicks: This information is in the tables.

Average maintenance assessment in the current Child Support Scheme

Number of qualifying childrenAverage per week in pounds
118.46
224.57
323.40

Source:

5 per cent. scan of Child Support Computer System August 1998.


26 Mar 2002 : Column 995W

Average maintenance calculation in the new Child Support Scheme

Number of qualifying childrenAverage per week in pounds
114.88
221.80
324.86

Source:

5 per cent. scan of Child Support Computer System August 1998.


Mr. Andrew Mitchell: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what factors underlay the decision to reform the child support system; and on what date the reforms will be brought into effect. [44439]

Malcolm Wicks: Research commissioned for the White Paper of July 1999, XA new contract for welfare" found that the child support system was failing the children it was set up to help. A major part of the problem is that the existing formula for assessing maintenance is too complex. As a result too few resources have been available for enforcement. Consequently currently only around half of those Non-Resident Parents with an assessment pay all of the maintenance that is due. The Government therefore decided to simplify the child support system basing it on a simple percentage of the non-resident parents net income. It will be transparent and easier to understand so allowing a more customer focused Child Support Agency to spend less time calculating maintenance and more time chasing payments.

As far as the start date for the new scheme is concerned, I refer the hon. Member to the statement given by my right hon. Friend, the Secretary of State, on 20 March 2002, Official Report, columns 315–16W.

Mr. Andrew Mitchell: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions when existing cases will be brought into the new scheme for child support; how they will be treated when (a) there is an application on foot for revision or supersession, (b) the assessment is the subject of an appeal and (c) applications for an assessment are pending at the date of implementation. [44440]

Malcolm Wicks: The Government has made clear that existing cases will be brought onto the new system only after it is clear that the new scheme is operating effectively. Parents will be given advance notice of the new liability.

If existing clients make or have made an application for revision or supersession of, or appeal against, their maintenance assessment, that application will be dealt with under current rules. If appropriate, any change will be reflected in the conversion calculation.

Where a maintenance assessment is pending when the new scheme is introduced for new cases, it will be treated in one of two ways. If no effective date has been set, it will be processed under the new rules; if an effective date has already been set, the current scheme will apply.

Mr. Andrew Mitchell: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what estimate he has made of the rate of compliance under the new child support formula; and what the present rate of compliance is. [44436]

26 Mar 2002 : Column 996W

Malcolm Wicks: The rate of compliance in the current year to January 2002, is 70.9 per cent. In the new child support scheme we expect compliance to rise to at least 75 per cent.

Mr. Andrew Mitchell: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what plans he has to set up a child support council. [44430]

Malcolm Wicks: My right hon. Friend is not persuaded that there is a need for such a body.

The Child Support Agency has set up fora for ongoing discussion with major stakeholders in the area of child support. These function well as a formal mechanism for dialogue between the Agency and the significant interested parties.

Mr. Burns: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will make a statement on when the changes to the CSA will come into force. [43893]

Malcolm Wicks [holding answer 18 March 2002]: I refer the hon. Member to the statement given by my right hon. Friend, the Secretary of State, on 20 March 2002, Official Report, columns 315–16W.

Mr. Webb: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what the maximum percentage is of net income that a non-resident parent can be asked to pay in child support maintenance under the CSA system for (a) one child, (b) two children and (c) three children. [33265]

Malcolm Wicks: Under the current Child Support provisions, the maximum percentage of net income that a non-resident parent can be expected to pay is 30 per cent. regardless of the number of children. This increases to 33 per cent. where the non-resident parent is paying child support maintenance arrears. Exceptionally, where the non-resident parent has failed to make or keep to an agreement to pay arrears of maintenance he or she can be required to pay up to 40 per cent.

Mr. Hood: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will list his areas of responsibility in connection with the Child Support Agency. [43077]

Malcolm Wicks: My right hon. Friend has overall responsibility for the policy and legislation in relation to child support. Day to day operation of the child support scheme is in the hands of the Child Support Agency, an Executive Agency of the Department. Its Chief Executive is accountable to my right hon. Friend, via the Permanent Secretary.

Mr. Boswell: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions when he last met the Solicitors' Family Law Association to discuss forthcoming changes in the Child Support Agency's maintenance formula; and if he will make a statement. [44267]

Malcolm Wicks [holding reply 20 March 2002]: My right hon. Friend has held no meetings with the Solicitors' Family Law Association over the last 12 months to discuss the changes in the child support system.


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