On 19 May 2023, the second reading of the Child Support (Enforcement) Bill is scheduled to take place in the House of Lords. It is a private member’s bill sponsored by Baroness Redfern (Conservative). The bill was introduced in the House of Commons by Siobhan Baillie (Conservative MP for Stroud) and completed its House of Commons stages on 17 March 2023. It received its first reading in the House of Lords on 20 March 2023.

At present, should a parent fail to pay the child maintenance they owe, the Child Maintenance Service (CMS) can attempt to recover the money from the parent’s earnings or bank account. If these methods do not work, the CMS can seek a legal order known as a ‘liability order’ from a magistrate’s court that confirms the amount of child maintenance owed. Once a liability order has been issued, the CMS can take various enforcement actions. This can include preventing the parent from getting or keeping a driving licence, seizing assets or property to pay the arrears, or imprisonment. The government’s website states that the legal process can take “anything from a few weeks to several months”.

The Child Support Act 1991 (as amended by the Child Maintenance and Other Payments Act 2008) contains uncommenced provisions allowing the secretary of state to make a liability order without first making an application to the courts. The bill would amend the basis on which the secretary of state could make these orders. It would also make provision about the variation of liability orders, and require regulations to make provision about appeals. Supporters of the bill have argued that this would allow enforcement measures to be used more quickly against non-paying parents.

The government supports the bill. In December 2022, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) published explanatory notes for the bill following its introduction in the House of Commons. In March 2023, the department published a delegated powers memorandum for the House of Lords Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee. In April 2023, the DWP published explanatory notes for the bill following its first reading in the House of Lords.

The bill has received cross-party support. It completed its House of Commons stages without amendment.

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