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Lord Higgins: This has been a fascinating debate, not least because, in reply to my intervention, we seem to have heard new Liberal Democrat party policy that government should legislate how much should be allocated by parents to their children in any family that has not broken up. If that is the case, we may be in serious trouble.

Earl Russell: The noble Lord asked me for a moral principle, not a prescription. I will qualify my remarks. I would hesitate to apply that principle to Augustus the Strong, who had 592 known children.

Lord Higgins: I always thought that the noble Earl thought that moral principles and what ought to be in legislation were one and the same. We shall, no doubt, pursue that point on another occasion.

The noble Baroness, Lady Pitkeathley, and the Minister said that the income of every non-resident parent would have to be scrutinised to identify those who were to be capped. If we were to insert this simple provision into the Bill, anyone who thought they ought to be capped would say so in response to the agency's inquiries. It is unlikely that the vast majority would need to have their means assessed in that way or would think they were caught by the cap.

The Minister referred to spousal income rather than assistance for the child. On the kind of numbers the noble Baroness was talking about, it is doubtful that the needs would be of such a high order. The amount will be based on what the other parent can afford. We have to take into account the position of second families. In the case of someone who is extremely wealthy and has a second family, paying support without limit on the percentage basis might reduce the income he can devote to the children of the second family. One thing that is indelibly printed on my mind from dealing with such cases is the bitterness of second families, which gives rise to many problems and a determination on the part of absent parents who have remarried to avoid by any means becoming involved with the CSA. On this basis, there

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could be a redistribution of income from the second family to the first family. There would be a variation on the old purse-to-wallet argument, as to who ought to have the money.

The noble Lord, Lord Stoddart of Swindon, pointed out that it was not the intention of the 1991 Act--or this Bill, I thought--to lead to massive transfers from one group to another. One could have an extremely rich mother with care combined with an extremely rich absent parent--but the absent father would still have to transfer support, without limit on a percentage basis, to his very rich previous wife. We will need to return to these complicated matters on Report, then reach a view on the balance of argument. Subject to that, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

6.15 p.m.

Lord Higgins moved Amendment No. 12:

    Page 89, line 7, at beginning insert--

("(A1) Following the calculation of the amount payable by the non-resident parent, the Secretary of State shall determine the net weekly income of the parent with care in like manner to the determination of the net weekly income of the non-resident parent.
(A2) Where the net weekly income of the parent with care exceeds the net weekly income of the non-resident parent the Secretary of State shall in such manner as may be prescribed reduce the amount of child support maintenance payable by the non-resident parent.
(A3) Where the non-resident parent is liable to pay child support maintenance to more than one person the provisions of sub-paragraph (A1) shall apply to each parent with care and the reductions in the amount payable provided for by sub-paragraph (A2) shall apply to the amounts payable to each of those parents with care in receipt of a net weekly income greater than that of the non-resident parent.").

The noble Lord said: With this, we may appropriately consider also Amendment No. 26. The argument is simply that the income of the parent with care and the absent parent should both be taken into account. The Government seem determined only to take into account the income of the absent parent. That was made clear earlier by the Minister when she said that the contribution by the with-care parent was care and that of the absent parent was money. We have grave doubts, believing it important to take both aspects into account.

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: I did not mean to imply that the father's sole responsibility is that of providing cash support. I would certainly wish to see contact and loving support. But when it comes to determining proper apportionment, all the research indicates that children of an intact family take 30 per cent of its income--not just in terms of food and trainers but housing costs and the like. Therefore, it seems equitable to allocate 15 per cent to the parent with whom the child is living and 15 per cent to the non-resident parent. I was not trying to suggest that the absent parent is only there for the money and the caring parent is there to do everything else.

Lord Higgins: In the light of the debate we had earlier on the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord

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Northbourne, it is clearly desirable--not least in light of the statistics the noble Baroness advanced earlier--that the absent parent, man or woman, should continue to take part in the emotional and other development of the children concerned. That is something on which we should all agree. Where there is room for dispute is whether, on the other side of that coin, the fact that the parent with care takes most of the responsibility--in many cases not all the responsibility--means that he or she should be in some way exempt from paying anything at all. That is a debatable proposition, particularly where, after the marriage has broken down or if there was no marriage at all, the parent with care is better off than the absent parent, whether it be male or female. That gives rise to great tensions and seems to us, in a simple-minded way, to be unfair.

The parent with care ought to contribute, if she is able, towards the cost of the child's rearing in terms of finance. The noble Baroness's position is that, however well off the parent with care is, she should not contribute anything financially. Is that right?

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: I must challenge the noble Lord. I made it clear that the parent with care contributes her share of the maintenance by providing the lifestyle which the child enjoys by living with her.

Lord Higgins: But she does not contribute anything at all in relation to finance. Am I wrong?

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: The child is fed; has its clothes bought; the housing and heating costs paid; school costs, trainers and gym kit paid for. Is that not part of the parent-with-care's contribution in kind?

Lord Higgins: We fully accept that the parent with care, male or female, contributes in that way. But it is not reasonable to say that that exempts them from making a financial contribution.

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: That is a financial contribution.

Lord Higgins: I suppose if one wished to do so, one could evaluate it in a cost sense. But if one does that, then the noble Baroness is hoist with her own petard. She has to argue that that value is the same as the value of the amount which is being contributed by the absent parent. The noble Baroness is not doing that.

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: I am sorry to get under the noble Lord's feet. I am baffled by this. A child needs support. We know from all the research and experience abroad that in most families that takes around 30 per cent of their income; not in a narrow sense but in the broadest sense of living costs. That is how much is apportioned.

The argument is simple. If the child needs that sum of money, it is reasonable to assume that that should be split 50-50 between the two parents. Clearly, because the child is living with the carer--normally the mother, but not invariably so--the mother is providing that 15 per cent not in cash, but in kind. She has to purchase

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that kind through cash, including housing costs, food on the table, heating, TV licence and so forth. That is her contribution. The absent parent's contribution towards those living costs, because he is not providing care in kind because it is not an intact family, is the cash. If they were together, he would be providing it in cash because he would possibly be bringing in the earnings and the mother might be producing it in kind. That is being replicated in these arrangements.

I am baffled that the noble Lord is not willing to put a financial equivalence on the contribution made by the parent with care to the cash sum produced by the non-resident parent.

Lord Higgins: I am happy to do that. But it still seems to me that one ought to take into account the resources of both parties in the broadest sense of the term. As I understand it, that is not what will happen under the Bill as drafted; the wealth of the parent with care is not to be taken into account in determining how the matter should be adjusted. There is a strong argument for saying that that is not the right approach, not least because it will tend to create tensions; it will not lead to a satisfactory arrangement.

In this context, our amendment imposes a limit in that regard. In another place the Australian experience was called in aid. A senior Australian lawyer gave evidence to the Select Committee to the effect that some sort of adjustment ought to be made on the lines that we are suggesting. Perhaps I ought to give the noble Baroness the chance to have a run at this, so to speak, rather than by way of intervention and we can then take the matter forward.

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