Letter: Child support and the absent parent's right to appeal

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Sir: It is increasingly clear that, whether under this Government or its successor, the Child Support Act will need fundamental changes. When ministers, of whatever party, sit down to consider these, I hope they will remember four principles.

First, the job must be done thoroughly: political grand old Dukes of York, who think only half-way down, tend to lose their balance. Second, as Sue Slipman stresses in your paper today ('Nobody hears the single parent's voice'), the changes must find ways of meeting the genuine needs of the parents with care. Reconciling these two principles will need a good deal of thought, and is best approached through the childcare route taken in the budget.

Third, it is essential to take the time needed to get it right: there is sense in the maxim 'legislate in haste: repent at leisure'.

Fourth, the new law will need the widest possible public support. This will demand extensive consultation, not only on an all- party basis, but also with organisations such as the National Association of Citizens' Advice Bureaux and the Law Society, which have a track record for getting it right. That way, we might get a law on child maintenance that would enjoy enough public support to work.

Yours sincerely,

RUSSELL

House of Lords

London, SW1

18 May

The writer is Liberal Democrat spokesman in the House of Lords on social security.

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