Gale’s View – 8th February 2012
 
May I pick up where Laura Sandys left off last week?
 
Why a handful of Liberal Peers and a group of Bishops in the House of Lords, with the very honourable exception of the former Archbishop of Canterbury, George Carey, should think that it is “unchristian” to pay people more on benefit than the majority of people receive in their pay packets is beyond me.
 
The House of Commons has  rejected the Lords` Amendments to the Benefits Bill and will use its powers to ensure that this legislation will now become an Act of Parliament.   It simply cannot be right that people earning less than £26,000 a year – and in parts of East Kent the average wage is £17,000 – should pay, through their taxes, for others to receive an unearned income of £35,000.
 
Yes. That is correct. In order to receive a take-home pay packet of the £26,000 at which benefits will be capped a person has to have a before-tax income of £35,000 and that is a salary that is beyond the wildest hopes of many of the people that East Kent`s MPs represent.
 
The changes to the Child Support system are also necessary but will generate concerns.  The CSA is a basket case.  From the time that a Conservative Government introduced it in 1991 and a subsequent Labour administration tried to revise it,  it has failed the people that it was supposed to serve.  The genuinely hardworking staff of the CSA have, since day one, been overwhelmed by a backlog of work that retrospective legislation generated and we are about, I fear, to make the same mistake again.
 
It is right that people should be required to pay for their children and it is wrong that taxpayers should have to pick up the bill when they choose – and I use that word carefully – not to do so.  It is also right that people should be encouraged to reach private agreements when relationships break down before rushing to the CSA for a settlement.  That is why the proposed modest registration fee for the use of CSA services is being introduced.
 
I have never believed, though, that the State should be required to intervene where taxpayer-funded benefits are not being claimed.  The object of the CSA should be to ensure that children receive fair and adequate support from their parents, that those parents take responsibility for the children that they have chosen to bring into the world and that only when that system has failed should the State seek to ensure that it is the parent that, whenever possible, foots the bill rather than other taxpayers.
 
We have chosen to perpetuate a system that allows not only those on receipt of benefits but all who do not reach an amicable or at least a workable settlement to have resource to the CSA and that, I fear, will perpetuate the problem that we created in the first place. I hope that I am proved wrong.

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