Enforcement measures in other
188. While it is apparent that the more severe enforcement
measures are rarely used in the UK, the Committee were keen to
hear of different forms of enforcement used in other countries.
Professor Wikeley informed the Committee that in the USA, where
a non-resident parent owes more than $5,000, action can be taken
under the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity and Reconciliation
Act 1996 to refuse, revoke, or restrict a passport. A similar
measure is available in Australia where, since June 2001, the
Australian Child Support Registrar has the power to make a departure
prohibition order (DPO) where a non-resident parent using the
CSA collection service is in arrears. The making of a DPO is an
administrative procedure which prevents the non-resident parent
from leaving Australia unless all child support debts have been
discharged or satisfactory arrangements to do so have been made.
Since the DPO legislation came into effect, the CSA has collected
A$850,936 from the 90 DPOs issued. Professor Wikeley commented
that the Australian sanction appears to be more effective for
two reasons: it can take immediate effect as DPOs are copied to
the federal police and customs services and there is no need to
impound passports; and it is not confined to Australian citizens
During the visit to Australia, the Committee also heard that DPOs
can be issued quickly and are an effective enforcement tool.
189. The sanction of removing passports as an enforcement
measure was considered prior to the implementation of the child
support reforms in the UK but Professor Wikeley notes it is not
clear why the Government decided not to pursue this option.
He suggests that the issue of withdrawing passports from serious
child support defaulters should now be revisited in the UK. The
advantage of revoking passports is that it is an enforcement tool
that can be applied to both employed and self-employed non-resident
190. In oral evidence, the Secretary of State said
that there are complexities around the withdrawal of passports
but that the option needs to be looked into.
The complexities arise because there is no statutory basis for
the issue or withdrawal of passports - the power to issue passports
is derived from the royal prerogative. Passports can already be
withdrawn under the Football (Offences and Disorders) Act 1999
and the Football (Disorder) Act 2000 which requires the court
to order a football hooligan to surrender their passport during
periods when a travel ban is active against them.
191. Before considering pursuing the strengthening
of the Agency's enforcement powers, it should be noted that several
witnesses commented that before this is an option, the new scheme
should be given time to be fully operative and that the CSA should
use the enforcement powers it already has more effectively.
We consider that the need to widen the range of effective tools
available to the CSA in this connection is urgent.
192. The Committee
recommends that the Department further examines the use of travel
bans and passport withdrawal as a child support enforcement tool
for the NRPs who persistently default on their child support commitments.