Skip to main content

Reclaiming Fines: Universal Credit

Volume 691: debated on Tuesday 16 March 2021

What assessment he has made of the effectiveness of court fine deductions in reclaiming fines for people in receipt of universal credit. (913479)

Deductions from benefit orders are made by the court, and when the court makes them, the judge will take into account the affordability and the means of the person who is having the deduction order made. Someone can, of course, make an application later to remit part or all of the deduction, if their personal circumstances have changed.

I am grateful to the Minister for that answer, but he will know that the Government have ordered jobcentre staff to apply the maximum 30% deduction from universal credit for claimants who have to pay a court fine, regardless of their circumstances. This approach is failing on two fronts. It pushes vulnerable claimants further into poverty and recoups less money. The Ministry’s own data shows that the amount of money recouped in respect of court fines fell by over 13% between June and August last year, when the arbitrary 30% deduction was applied to all claimants. Does the Minister accept that this is the worst of all worlds, and will he begin urgent discussions with his counterparts in the Department for Work and Pensions to follow the data and allow local decision makers a greater degree of discretion as to how much is deducted from each individual claimant to pay a court fine?

I ask the House to be aware that these deductions pay not only for fines, but for compensation to victims, and we should be mindful of that. These orders are ultimately made by a judge, who, in making the order, has discretion and will take someone’s circumstances into account. I repeat the point that I made previously: if someone is experiencing difficulty, it is always open to them to go back to the court to have the order remitted, either in part or in whole.