Letter: Whatever happens, fathers must pay

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The Independent Online
From the Earl Russell

Sir: Readers of your parliamentary report "Mothers in fear of ex-partners lose out to CSA defrauders" (21 March) would not guess why Liz Lynne committed the Liberal Democrats to repealing the Child Support Act. The 1991 Act, in the way it blundered into sensitive areas without knowing what it was doing, was like a man committing domestic violence.

Its chances of remaining depended on large and rapid changes. The longer those changes were put off, the larger they needed to be. The amending Bill introduces the shell of necessary changes, but that shell is almost empty.

It was the last straw for us when we discovered that the Bill was a framework Bill passed as a series of regulation-making powers and therefore almost impossible to amend to make it adequate.

Liberal Democrats recommend the establishment of a family court system to investigate absent parents' ability to pay maintenance and an agency to act only as a collection body.

We remain committed to the principle that fathers must pay. One of our big complaints of this Act is that, by demanding that fathers must pay what they've not got, it has discredited the principle that fathers must pay, perhaps for a generation.

Since most men retain after divorce a thwarted affection for their children, and sometimes even for their ex-wife, we will not get them to pay unless their children materially benefit. If, as will often happen, there's not enough to go around, the state cannot avoid continuing to meet part of the cost. But if, as Liberal Democrats do, we prefer to concentrate this help in the form of childcare, the resultant increases in revenue might do more than meet the necessary costs.

Yours faithfully,

RUSSELL

Liberal Democrat

Social Security Spokesman

House of Lords

London, SW1

21 March

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