Ann Widdecombe

Ann Widdecombe is a renowned author and British politician, serving as a Conservative Party MP from 1987 to 2010. She is also known for her appearances on reality TV shows like Strictly Come Dancing.

We must challenge the unfair Child Maintenance System, says Ann Widdecombe

Today as you are reading this column yet another parent is facing jail because the Child Maintenance Service is trying to get money that it is not owed and this time that parent, to whom I have spoken, is a woman.

The CMS cannot be challenged

The CMS cannot be challenged (Image: Getty)

The prosecution barrister was so alarmed he declined to proceed, which is to his credit, but today the matter comes up in court again, where again she will be unable to present clear evidence that the calculations are badly wrong.

The list of unfair prosecutions grows alarmingly and from time to time drives parents to suicide, as it did in the case of Jonny O’Neill who posted a message on Facebook to draw attention to his situation before taking his own life. His mother wrote to Boris Johnson who, beset with the Covid crisis, did not reply while the CMS chased the debt after his death and then wrote to thank him for his death certificate sent by his mother! Officials have admitted that they took more than 40% of wages, itself unlawful.

In another instance, in 2006 TB received a letter from the then CSA confirming he owed nothing. In 2019 the CMS, suddenly and without any change in the situation, claimed he owed arrears

of £18k and took him to court where he was not able to present the 2006 letter as evidence under the provision mentioned above. So the magistrate told him to sell his house.

I will refer to her by her initials SH. When she and her husband broke up, she was in a job which involved periods away from home while he was working from home so it made sense for her to become the non-resident parent, a role overwhelmingly taken by men.

As I’ve pointed out before, the law actually stipulates that once the CMS has made an assessment it cannot be challenged in a court, however unfair or fictitious.

In short, the citizen has no redress, a situation at odds with the laws of natural justice and indeed Magna Carta itself.

In this case the sum being pursued is in excess of £20,000. That is quite bad enough but apparently the CPS came up with a new figure at her last court appearance nearer to £50,000

Appalled by the mounting evidence and the number of suicides, I wrote to Viscount Younger, the Minister in charge of the CMS, last March to ask for a meeting along with one of the groups representing the victims. I know he got the letter because I had it
delivered by an MP rather than trust the department’s postal sorting.

He never did reply. Sadly, I did not expect him to.

We need someone with common sense like Esther

Amid the farce that was the Cabinet reshuffle, one appointment had me cheering this week: Esther McVey as Common Sense tsar.

She should begin by getting rid of all the diversity and equality officers throughout Whitehall. What a saving that would make and what a return to common sense that would herald. Then Esther should order shredded all the trans stuff about preferred pronouns and tell people just to get on with their jobs.

Real breaches of equality laws can be dealt with by HR but endless volumes of “advice” about not referring to “mothers” or “women” achieve nothing. Go for it, Esther!

The other minister I cheered was James Cleverly, who told Amol Rajan he might as well go and have a cup of tea as carry on with a pointless interview. Viewers wanted to know what Cleverly was going to do to stop the boats (I suspect dash all), while Rajan was fixated on whether Cleverly had described the Rwanda plan as bat droppings.

Cleverly was the grown-up in the room while Rajan was Jones Minor of the Lower Third.

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Time for Government ministers to keep silent in the run up to important events

Jeremy Hunt with Baroness Warsi

Jeremy Hunt with Baroness Warsi (Image: Getty)

I think it is time to revert to the old system of purdah whereby the Government shuts down any comment by Ministers for a period before the budget.

All this week Jeremy Hunt, above, has accepted invitations from broadcasters to comment on his forthcoming budget and all he has said is “I cannot tell you”.

A more pointless exercise would be difficult to imagine.

Why does Hunt, above, not decline all the ridiculous requests in the first place and get on with doing his job?

JK Rowling should stick to books for children and leave detective fiction to the grown-ups

Looking for some light entertainment, I made the error of wasting my money on purchasing a detective novel by Robert Galbraith, otherwise known as JK Rowling.

I thought I could not go wrong as I admired her writing in Harry Potter and love a good detective novel.

The book ended up in the bin, only a quarter read. The theme was interesting but it seems as if, in order to prove she’s writing for grown-ups, Rowling thinks it necessary incessantly to swear and talk about sex.

In this day and age, I expect to find the F-word in most books but when it occurs on page after page and indeed multiple times in a paragraph, one wonders if one is reading literature or listening to a drunken yob on the streets. I finally snapped the volume shut after a wholly gratuitous sexual reference.

Do grow up, dear.

Ruth Rendell and PD James wrote hugely successful detective novels without parading profanity. If Rowling cannot do the same she should stick to fairy tales.

Working does not always have its benefits

Last week I recounted how my travel insurer chucked me off the books for the grand crime of being over the age of 75.

My broker rang to say that she had found me a company that would insure me for double the price of my old policy. It was complicated, she said because I was still working, which I would have thought indicated health and fitness rather than alarm bells.

The work in question consists of speaking at conferences or lecturing and signing books on cruise ships, not of being James Bond’s stuntman
or giving ski instruction in the Alps.

Perhaps I should challenge the directors to a hike across Dartmoor and see who gets out of breath first.

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