The whole issue of tackling child poverty and supporting families is the key objective of this Government. A significant component of that is that parents should take responsibility for their families, even if both parents do not live together. However, the Government have inherited a significant debt package of £3.8 billion, and some of that debt dates back to before the Child Support Agency was amalgamated into the Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission. Furthermore, I understand that CMEC has not set a target for the recovery of the debt. I am meeting the chief executive of CMEC this week, and I intend to ask him to do a review on how arrears are collected, and I will insist that he sets a target for the collection of such arrears as soon as possible.
I am concerned that the Child Support Agency and its successor body often do not pursue absent fathers who are paying nothing and file those under “Too difficult,” and instead target people who are already paying to try and screw more out of them. Will my right hon. Friend ensure that the Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission goes back to what it was set up to do—to target absent parents who pay nothing, rather than trying to get more and more money out of the many people who are doing their best?
I can guarantee to my hon. Friend that that is exactly what we will try to do. It is not the easiest set-up. There will be changes later in the year to the CSA, but I can promise him that we want it to make sure that those who owe that money pay it. The previous Government let them off the hook.
There are already plans for the organisation to make sure that it improves the quality of its work. It was set up to make sure that absent parents, for whom we all have to pay because they are not paying their way, ante up to their responsibilities, which is good both for their children and for the whole of society.