Child Support, Pensions and Social Security Bill - continued        House of Lords
PART I, CHILD SUPPORT - continued

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Financial penalties
Financial penalties.     18. - (1) In section 41 of the 1991 Act (arrears of child support maintenance), subsections (3) to (5) (which provide for the payment of interest on arrears) shall cease to have effect.
 
      (2) For section 41A of the 1991 Act (arrears: alternative to interest payments) there shall be substituted-
 
 
"Penalty payments.     41A. - (1) The Secretary of State may by regulations make provision for the payment to him by non-resident parents who are in arrears with payments of child support maintenance of penalty payments determined in accordance with the regulations.
 
    (2) The amount of a penalty payment in respect of any week may not exceed 25% of the amount of child support maintenance payable for that week, but otherwise is to be determined by the Secretary of State in his absolute discretion.
 
      (3) The liability of a non-resident parent to make a penalty payment does not affect his liability to pay the arrears of child support maintenance concerned.
 
      (4) Regulations under subsection (1) may, in particular, make provision-
 
 
    (a) as to the time at which a penalty payment is to be payable;
 
    (b) for the Secretary of State to waive a penalty payment, or part of it.
      (5) The provisions of this Act with respect to-
 
 
    (a) the collection of child support maintenance;
 
    (b) the enforcement of an obligation to pay child support maintenance,
       apply equally (with any necessary modifications) to penalty payments payable by virtue of regulations under this section.
 
      (6) The Secretary of State shall pay penalty payments received by him into the Consolidated Fund."
 
Reduced benefit decisions.     19. For section 46 of the 1991 Act (failure to comply with obligations imposed by section 6) there shall be substituted-
 
 
"Reduced benefit decisions.     46. - (1) This section applies where any person ("the parent")-
 
    (a) has made a request under section 6(5);
 
    (b) fails to comply with any regulation made under section 6(7); or
 
    (c) having been treated as having applied for a maintenance calculation under section 6, refuses to take a scientific test (within the meaning of section 27A).
      (2) The Secretary of State may serve written notice on the parent requiring her, before the end of a specified period-
 
 
    (a) in a subsection (1)(a) case, to give him her reasons for making the request;
 
    (b) in a subsection (1)(b) case, to give him her reasons for failing to do so; or
 
    (c) in a subsection (1)(c) case, to give him her reasons for her refusal.
      (3) When the specified period has expired, the Secretary of State shall consider whether, having regard to any reasons given by the parent, there are reasonable grounds for believing that-
 
 
    (a) in a subsection (1)(a) case, if the Secretary of State were to do what is mentioned in section 6(3);
 
    (b) in a subsection (1)(b) case, if she were to be required to comply; or
 
    (c) in a subsection (1)(c) case, if she took the scientific test,
       there would be a risk of her, or of any children living with her, suffering harm or undue distress as a result of his taking such action, or her complying or taking the test.
 
      (4) If the Secretary of State considers that there are such reasonable grounds, he shall-
 
 
    (a) take no further action under this section in relation to the request, the failure or the refusal in question; and
 
    (b) notify the parent, in writing, accordingly.
      (5) If the Secretary of State considers that there are no such reasonable grounds, he may, except in prescribed circumstances, make a reduced benefit decision with respect to the parent.
 
      (6) In a subsection (1)(a) case, the Secretary of State may from time to time serve written notice on the parent requiring her, before the end of a specified period-
 
 
    (a) to state whether her request under section 6(5) still stands; and
 
    (b) if so, to give him her reasons for maintaining her request,
       and subsections (3) to (5) have effect in relation to such a notice and any response to it as they have effect in relation to a notice under subsection (2)(a) and any response to it.
 
      (7) Where the Secretary of State makes a reduced benefit decision he must send a copy of it to the parent.
 
      (8) A reduced benefit decision is to take effect on such date as may be specified in the decision.
 
      (9) Reasons given in response to a notice under subsection (2) or (6) need not be given in writing unless the Secretary of State directs in any case that they must.
 
      (10) In this section-
 
 
    (a) "comply" means to comply with the requirement or with the regulation in question; and "complied" and "complying" are to be construed accordingly;
 
    (b) "reduced benefit decision" means a decision that the amount payable by way of any relevant benefit to, or in respect of, the parent concerned be reduced by such amount, and for such period, as may be prescribed;
 
    (c) "relevant benefit" means income support or an income-based jobseeker's allowance or any other benefit of a kind prescribed for the purposes of section 6; and
 
    (d) "specified", in relation to a notice served under this section, means specified in the notice; and the period to be specified is to be determined in accordance with regulations made by the Secretary of State."
 
Miscellaneous
Voluntary payments.     20. - (1) After section 28I of the 1991 Act there shall be inserted-
 
 

"Voluntary payments
Voluntary payments.     28J. - (1) This section applies where-
 
 
    (a) a person has applied for a maintenance calculation under section 4(1) or 7(1), or is treated as having applied for one by virtue of section 6;
 
    (b) the Secretary of State has neither made a decision under section 11 or 12 on the application, nor decided not to make a maintenance calculation; and
 
    (c) the non-resident parent makes a voluntary payment.
      (2) A "voluntary payment" is a payment-
 
 
    (a) on account of child support maintenance which the non-resident parent expects to become liable to pay following the determination of the application (whether or not the amount of the payment is based on any estimate of his potential liability which the Secretary of State has agreed to give); and
 
    (b) made before the maintenance calculation has been notified to the non-resident parent or (as the case may be) before the Secretary of State has notified the non-resident parent that he has decided not to make a maintenance calculation.
      (3) In such circumstances and to such extent as may be prescribed-
 
 
    (a) the voluntary payment may be set off against arrears of child support maintenance which accrued by virtue of the maintenance calculation taking effect on a date earlier than that on which it was notified to the non-resident parent;
 
    (b) the amount payable under a maintenance calculation may be adjusted to take account of the voluntary payment.
      (4) A voluntary payment shall be made to the Secretary of State unless he agrees, on such conditions as he may specify, that it may be made to the person with care, or to or through another person.
 
      (5) The Secretary of State may by regulations make provision as to voluntary payments, and the regulations may in particular-
 
 
    (a) prescribe what payments or descriptions of payment are, or are not, to count as "voluntary payments";
 
    (b) prescribe the extent to which and circumstances in which a payment, or a payment of a prescribed description, counts."
      (2) Section 41B of the 1991 Act (repayment of overpaid child support maintenance) shall be amended as follows.
 
      (3) After subsection (1) there shall be inserted-
 
 
    "(1A) This section also applies where the non-resident parent has made a voluntary payment and it appears to the Secretary of State-
 
 
    (a) that he is not liable to pay child support maintenance; or
 
    (b) that he is liable, but some or all of the payment amounts to an overpayment,
       and, in a case falling within paragraph (b), it also appears to him that subsection (1)(a) or (b) applies."
 
      (4) For subsection (7) there shall be substituted-
 
 
    "(7) For the purposes of this section-
 
 
    (a) a payment made by a person under a maintenance calculation which was not validly made; and
 
    (b) a voluntary payment made in the circumstances set out in subsection (1A)(a),
       shall be treated as an overpayment of child support maintenance made by a non-resident parent."
 
Recovery of child support maintenance by deduction from benefit.     21. For section 43 of the 1991 Act (contribution to maintenance by deduction from benefit) there shall be substituted-
 
 
"Recovery of child support maintenance by deduction from benefit.     43. - (1) This section applies where-
 
    (a) a non-resident parent is liable to pay a flat rate of child support maintenance (or would be so liable but for a variation having been agreed to), and that rate applies (or would have applied) because he falls within paragraph 4(1)(b) or (c) or 4(2) of Schedule 1; and
 
    (b) such conditions as may be prescribed for the purposes of this section are satisfied.
      (2) The power of the Secretary of State to make regulations under section 5 of the Social Security Administration Act 1992 by virtue of subsection (1)(p) (deductions from benefits) may be exercised in relation to cases to which this section applies with a view to securing that payments in respect of child support maintenance are made or that arrears of child support maintenance are recovered.
 
      (3) For the purposes of this section, the benefits to which section 5 of the 1992 Act applies are to be taken as including war disablement pensions and war widows' pensions (within the meaning of section 150 of the Social Security Contributions and Benefits Act 1992 (interpretation))."
 
Jurisdiction.     22. - (1) Section 44 of the 1991 Act (jurisdiction) shall be amended as follows.
 
      (2) In subsection (1), after "United Kingdom" there shall be inserted ", except in the case of a non-resident parent who falls within subsection (2A)".
 
      (3) After subsection (2) there shall be inserted-
 
 
    "(2A) A non-resident parent falls within this subsection if he is not habitually resident in the United Kingdom, but is-
 
 
    (a) employed in the civil service of the Crown, including Her Majesty's Diplomatic Service and Her Majesty's Overseas Civil Service;
 
    (b) a member of the naval, military or air forces of the Crown, including any person employed by an association established for the purposes of Part XI of the Reserve Forces Act 1996;
 
    (c) employed by a company of a prescribed description registered under the Companies Act 1985 in England and Wales or in Scotland, or under the Companies (Northern Ireland) Order 1986; or
 
    (d) employed by a body of a prescribed description."
      (4) Subsection (3) shall cease to have effect.
 
Abolition of the child maintenance bonus.     23. Section 10 of the Child Support Act 1995 (which provides for the child maintenance bonus) shall cease to have effect.
 
 
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