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Child Support Agency

Volume 453: debated on Monday 27 November 2006

16. What estimate he has made of the level of outstanding payments of child support; and if he will make a statement. (102911)

Maintenance payments outstanding have accumulated in the 13-year period since the beginning of the agency in 1993. The total maintenance payments outstanding at 31 March 2006 were £3.495 billion. The current operational improvement plan places increased emphasis on collecting debt by, for example, using private agencies and quadrupling the number of staff involved in enforcement activity.

Can the Minister say when the Secretary of State will follow up on all the actions that he promised in his statement in July, such as a further White Paper and a further consultation, and when does the Minister expect the Bill to be published? He accepts that £3 billion is outstanding; does he find that acceptable?

A debt has, of course, been accumulating since the very beginning of the agency. The level of debt is not acceptable, and that is precisely why, under the operational improvement plan, we are increasing the resources spent on chasing down that debt, and why we are quadrupling the number of staff engaged in that activity. As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State told the hon. Member for Wellingborough (Mr. Bone), the White Paper will appear shortly.