Lords inflict new defeat on Welfare Bill over child support
The Government's welfare reforms suffered a wounding blow last night as the House of Lords overwhelmingly rejected plans to charge single parents to use the Child Support Agency (CSA).
Peers voted against the move by 270 to 128 votes, a majority of 142, as former Conservative Cabinet ministers led a chorus of protest over the planned levy. It was the fifth time the Lords has inflicted a defeat on Iain Duncan Smith, the Work and Pensions Secretary, over the Welfare Reform Bill.
He is proposing that single parents should face an upfront fee of £100 (£50 for those on benefits) to use the CSA to force former partners to pay maintenance towards their children. In addition, up to 12 per cent of the money they receive would be deducted for CSA administration fees. Ministers say the moves are designed to encourage separating couples to reach their own financial agreements without resorting to an official body.
The revolt was led former Lord Chancellor Lord Mackay, one of the CSA's original architects, who denounced the measure as fundamentally unfair and warned that it would deter single mothers from seeking maintenance money to which they were entitled. He added: "The motivation for these charges is said by the Government to be to bring people to voluntary agreement. I am entirely in favour of that, but if that proves impossible where the woman is at the stage where there is nothing more she can do, the only thing she can do is pay."
Last night the Department for Work and Pensions said it would attempt to overturn the defeat when the Bill returns to the Commons next month. But given the scale of the defeat – and the size of the Tory rebellion – the Government might be forced to offer concessions to force the measure into law.
Concessions to critics, including an increase to £20m in funding for advice services for separating couples, failed to avert last night's rebellion. The Tory former social security secretary, Lord Newton of Braintree, said: "I don't think this is fair or right or productive."
Labour's former attorney-general Lord Morris of Aberavon said he was "aghast" at the move. He asked: "What is the purpose of imposing on the most vulnerable people a charge of this kind?"
The crossbench peer Baroness Butler-Sloss, a former head of the High Court family division, said there were fathers "who would simply not pay".
Fiona Weir, the chief executive of Gingerbread, a charity for single parents, said: "The Lords have sent a very strong message."
- 1 'We're not heroes, just tourists': Swedish police officers on holiday stop vicious assault on New York subway
- 2 Black Mass trailer: Johnny Depp might have started making good films again
- 3 Jacob Lescenski and Anthony Martinez: Straight student asks gay friend to High School prom and makes a million Twitter friends
- 4 Buckingham Palace guard who attacked passers-by in 'most most violent piece of CCTV footage' police officer had seen walks free
- 5 Australian student Tommy Connolly, 23, adopts his pregnant, homeless 17-year-old cousin to give her a chance at 'a better life'
Top 20 misconceptions people believe are true
Sofyen Belamouadden murder: The inside story of a crime that horrified Britain
'We're not heroes, just tourists': Swedish police officers on holiday stop vicious assault on New York subway
Head transplant: man will be attached to new body in under an hour and aim is immortality, doctor says
Buckingham Palace guard who attacked passers-by in 'most most violent piece of CCTV footage' police officer had seen walks free
The sickening truth about food banks that the Tories don't want you to know
Katie Hopkins on LBC: Listen to caller taking The Sun columnist to task over migrant comments
Migrant boat disaster: Ukip candidate mocks victims in sickening Twitter post
Nigel Farage wants the BBC to stop making programmes like Doctor Who, Strictly Come Dancing, and Top Gear
Global warming: Scientists say temperatures could rise by 6C by 2100 and call for action ahead of UN meeting in Paris
General Election 2015: Britain would become a 'communist dictatorship' under Ed Miliband and Nicola Sturgeon, claims wife of Michael Gove
Voluntary: Cancer Research UK: We’re looking for someone to support our award ...
£70000 - £90000 per annum + bonus + car allowance + benefits: Ashdown Group: H...
£28000 - £32000 per annum + Excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Application Sup...
£28000 - £32000 per annum + Excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Systems Analyst...