What goes on behind the closed doors of Westminster? Questions are frequently asked in the House of Commons in relation to the Child Maintenance Service, these are easily searchable on Hansard. What is less clear is how much individual MP’s wield influence over Ministerial Departments and their policy? What, exactly goes on behind those closed doors?
Following the withdrawl of Heidi Allen’s Child Maintenance Bill earlier this month we were sufficiently interested to look into the Ministerial communications between Heidi Allen’s office and the Ministerial office responsible for the Child Maintenance Service currently occupied by Justin Tomlinson MP after he took over from the previous occupant, Kit Malthouse MP.
Heidi’s 10 minute Bill was read for the first time in November of 2017. At that time, the Junior Minister in the DWP responsible for the Child Maintenance Service was Kit Malthouse MP. We know that a meeting took place in February 2018 between Kit Malthouse and Heidi Allen to discuss matters relating to the Child Maintenance Service. Following that meeting, Kit Malthouse wrote to Heidi Allen on March 16th 2018 with this letter:
March 16th 2018 Letter from Kit Malthouse MP to Heidi Allen MP
Then, on 23 April 2018 they met again and another letter was sent from Kit Malthouse to Heidi Allen on June 13th:
Following a Cabinet reshuffle in July 2018 Kit Malthouse moved to Housing Minister and the DWP position was taken up by Justin Tomlinson MP.
Despite telling Voice of the Child that he was “new to the role and needed to get acquainted with his portfolio” he wrote to Heidi Allen on July 13th 2018 (just days into his new role):
Parliament then broke up for recess over the summer but the Minister and Heidi Allen held a meeting shortly after the return on September 5th 2018. The outstanding points to that meeting were sent by Heidi Allen to the Minister in 2 pieces of correspondence:
and the “legal opinion”:
Justin Tomlinson then wrote again to Heidi Allen on 25th September 2018:
Following the September 5th meeting there were also a flurry of emails between Heidi Allen’s office and the Child Maintenance Policy team at the DWP headed by Julia Gault:
We’ll go through much of the what is contained in this correspondence at a later date but for now we’d question whether it’s appropriate for an MP to be trying to push through policy unilaterally by threatening the DWP with a Private Member’s Bill (note the reference to Heidi Allen withdrawing her Private Members Bill if Justin Tomlinson meets her demands).
We have said many times before that changes to the incumbent system are required but they need to start from first principles and look at the system in its entirety.