asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if he will introduce measures to ensure the prompt payment of maintenance so that deserted families do not need to claim supplementary benefit.
Administrative procedures already require that, wherever possible, a husband is contacted before any payment is made. Where he is legally liable to maintain and can afford to do so, he is asked to make an immediate payment to his wife. However, if there is failure to maintain and supplementary benefit is paid as a consequence, the Supplementary Benefits Commission may seek an order in a magistrates' court under Section 18 of the Supplementary Benefits Act 1976. Such an order may be enforced by the court, as may a maintenance order held by the wife if it has been obtained or registered in a magistrates' court. Proposals for amendment of the law relating to the enforcement of orders of a magistrates' court are a matter for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Home Department.