QUEENS BENCH DIVISION
London, WC2A 2LL
B e f o r e :
| The Queen on the application of Mary K
| - and -
|The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions
Smith Bernal Wordwave Limited, 190 Fleet Street
London EC4A 2AG
Tel No: 020 7421 4040, Fax No: 020 7831 8838
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Mr. Robert Jay QC and Mr. David Forsdick (instructed by the Solicitor to the Department for Work and Pensions) for the Respondent
AS APPROVED BY THE COURT
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Mr. Justice Wall:
The issues in outline 5 to 12
The three specific questions to be addressed 13 to 14
The policy behind the Child Support Act 15 to 17
The Scheme of the Child Support Act 18 to 27
The powers of enforcement contained in the Act 28 to 31
The essential facts 32 to 41
The Claimant's case on the facts 42 to 43
The first question: is Article 6 engaged?:
Arguments advanced on the Claimant's behalf 44 to 61
Arguments advanced on behalf of the Secretary of State 62 to 78
Discussion and Analysis:
Is Article 6 engaged at all in this case? 79 to 99
The second question: is the Scheme under the 1991 Act
HRA 1998 compliant on Alconbury principles?
The case for the Secretary of State 100 to 112 Does delay in enforcement of itself infringe Article 6? 113 to 117 The case for the Claimant 118 to 119 Discussion and Analysis
Is the Scheme under the 1991 Act HRA 1998
compliant on Alconbury principles? 120 to 137
Are my conclusions inconsistent with previous case law
relating to the Agency and the Act? 138 to 144
What remedies does the claimant have? 145 to 150
The result 151
The Issues in Outline
the provisions of the Child Support Act 1991 (the 1991 Act) are incompatible with a convention right (namely the right of access to a court under Article 6) because they deny a parent with care of children (PWC) access to any court (in her own right or alternatively on behalf of the children) in connection with disputes as to her (or their) civil rights consisting of disputes as to whether the absent parent has paid and/or ought to pay the sums due under a maintenance assessment under the 1991 Act; or as to the manner in which the obligations under the maintenance assessment should be enforced".
In the determination of his civil rights and obligations ….every one is entitled to a fair and public hearing within a reasonable time by an independent and impartial tribunal established by law ….
The three specific questions to be addressed
(1) is Article 6 engaged in this case?
(2) if it is engaged, is the scheme under the 1991 Act nonetheless HRA 1998 compliant under Alconbury principles?
(3) dependent upon the answers to (1) and (2) what remedies, if any, does the claimant have?
The policy behind the Child Support Act
….The present system of maintenance is unnecessarily fragmented, uncertain in its results, slow and ineffective. The system is operated through the High and county courts, the magistrates' courts, the Court of Session and the Sheriff Courts in Scotland and the offices of the Department of Social Security. The cumulative effect is uncertainty and inconsistent decisions about how much maintenance should be paid. In a great many instances, the maintenance awarded is not paid or the payments fall into arrears and take weeks to re-establish. Only 30% of lone mothers and 3% of lone fathers receive regular maintenance for their children.
following terms: -
The aim behind the creation of the Agency was to establish a system of child maintenance which was equally available to any person seeking maintenance for the benefit of a child. It was intended, amongst other things, to enable maintenance to be decided in a fair and reasonable way which reduced the scope for it becoming a contest between the parents to the detriment to the interests of the children. The intention was to provide an integrated package of measures with the Agency having the responsibility for the procedures relating to maintenance payments. It was envisaged that this integrated package, including the extensive powers of enforcement available to the Secretary of State, would provide a fair and swift service available to all.
The Scheme of the Child Support Act
By s 11 of the Act, any application for a maintenance assessment is to be dealt with by a child support officer in accordance with the provisions of the Act: and by s 12, the child support officer is entitled in the absence of adequate information to make an assessment, to make an interim maintenance assessment. By s 54 reference to a maintenance assessment includes reference to an interim maintenance assessment. By ss 16, 17 and 18 provision is made for review of maintenance assessments at the instigation of either the parent who has care of the child, or the absent parent: and by s 19, a child support officer is empowered to review an assessment of his own motion.
Section 20 of the Act provides for appeals to a child support appeal tribunal against a decision on a review: and by s 24, any person who is aggrieved by the decision of such a tribunal may appeal on a question of law to a child support commissioner, whose decision can in turn, be considered by the Court of Appeal
Section 29 of the Act empowers the Secretary of State to arrange the collection of child support. By s 31 he is empowered to make a deduction from earnings order for that purpose, and by s 33 he is empowered to make application to a magistrates' court for a liability order where the person liable to make payments of child support maintenance has failed to make one or more such payments.
Section 32 of the Act empowers the Secretary of State to make regulations in relation to deduction from earnings orders, and s 34 empowers him to do so in relation to liability orders.
(1) For the purposes of this Act, each parent of a qualifying child is responsible for maintaining him.
(2) For the purposes of this Act, an absent parent [a non-resident parent] shall be taken to have met his responsibility to maintain any qualifying child of his by making periodical payments of maintenance with respect to the child of such amount, and at such intervals, as may be determined in accordance with the provisions of this Act.
(3) Where a maintenance assessment [maintenance calculation] made under this Act requires the making of periodical payments, it shall be the duty of the absent parent [non-resident parent] with respect to whom the assessment [calculation] was made to make those payments.
Where, in any case which falls to be dealt with under this Act, the Secretary of State . . . is considering the exercise of any discretionary power conferred by this Act, he shall have regard to the welfare of any child likely to be affected by his decision (my emphasis).
(1) A person who is, in relation to any qualifying child or any qualifying children, either the PWC or the AP may apply to the Secretary of State for a maintenance assessment to be made under this Act with respect to that child, or any of those children.
(2) Where a maintenance assessment has been made in response to an application under this section the Secretary of State may, if the person with care....with respect to whom the assessment was made applies to him under this subsection, arrange for
a the collection of the child support maintenance payable in accordance with the assessment;
b the enforcement of the obligation to pay child support maintenance in accordance with the assessment.
(3) Where an application under subsection (2) for the enforcement of the obligation mentioned in sub-section (2)(b) authorises the Secretary of State to take steps to enforce that obligation whenever he considers it necessary to do so, the Secretary of State may act accordingly ……
(5) Any person who has applied to the Secretary of State under this section may at any time request him to cease acting under this section.
(1) This subsection applies in any case where the Secretary of State would have jurisdiction to make a maintenance assessment with respect to a qualifying child and an absent parent of his on an application duly made by a person entitled to apply for such an assessment with respect to that child…….
(3) In any case where subsection (1) applies, no court shall exercise any power which it would otherwise have to make, vary or revive any maintenance order in relation to the child and absent parent concerned."
(1) by virtue of section 8(5) the Court is empowered to make a maintenance order where the parties have made a written agreement (i.e. a consent order) providing for periodical payments for the benefit of that child and the other conditions of that sub-section apply. In such cases, the maintenance assessment will continue in force but the PWC will have rights under the maintenance order. In section 4 cases, but not section 6 cases, the AP will usually agree with the PWC that as a term of the consent order the section 4 application should be withdrawn and that the Secretary of State should close the case under section 4(5) and (6).
(2) In cases where a consent order is already in being, the Act does not confer jurisdiction to make a maintenance assessment (see section 4(10)(a) and 7(10). However, in relation to the other section 8 exceptions set out below, the Act retains jurisdiction by virtue of section 18(6) of the Child Support Act 1995.
(3) by virtue of section 8(6) the Court has power to make a maintenance order for non-Child Support Act maintenance on top of a maintenance assessment obtained under the Act. This applies in the rare case in which the AP's income is such that an increase in his income would not increase the maintenance assessment.
(4) by virtue of section 8(7), the Court has power to make a maintenance order to cover a child's education fees on top of a maintenance assessment made under the Act .
(5) by virtue of section 30 of the Act, the PWC can request that the Secretary of State collect and enforce maintenance obtained pursuant to orders under section 8(6)-(8) and
(6) by virtue of section 9 the parties can make maintenance agreements which are contractually binding and enforceable by the PWC outside the Act.
The powers of enforcement contained in the Act
The essential facts
(1) by March 1996 arrears of £4244 had accumulated;
(2) the Agency negotiated an agreement with Mr. K that he would pay the IMA of £124.33 per week plus £25.67 towards arrears;
(3) on 21 June 1996, a Liability Order ("the LO") was applied for because the AP breached the above agreement;
(4) the LO application was discontinued when regular payments were resumed;
(5) a second application for a LO was eventually granted on 15 December 2000 for £6329.24 and covered arrears that arose during the period 25 May 1995 to 11 September 2000. Payments were not made under the LO and bailiffs were instructed to levy distress but were unsuccessful. On 31 January 2001, the LO was registered as a county court debt. Consideration was given at that time to applying for a committal to prison but as the policy is to use this as a last resort only other methods were tried first. On 9 October 2001, a deduction of earnings order ("DEO") was issued for £608.84 per month. It was increased to £889.06 on 21 February 2002. Following this, Mr K again stopped paying his maintenance. DEOs on the company for which he is a director proved unsuccessful.
(6) in an interview with the agency on 21 October 2002, Mr K alleged that two of the qualifying children had been living with him for five years, and that a third had moved in with him recently. He also told the interviewing officer that the fourth child had gone to live with his mother in Spain. He alleged that this had been reported to the Agency previously and this was why he had stopped paying;
(7) the Agency was aware of the changed circumstances of the children and that had already been taken into account in assessments but having established that the Claimant was permanently resident in Spain the case was closed on 13 January 2003 - see s.44(1) of the 1991 Act;
(8) the arrears however remain due to the Claimant and the Agency is continuing to seek to enforce;
(9) a committal hearing was held on 8 November 2002. Mr K admitted owing £6329.24 for 25 May 1995 to 11 September 2000 and £13,859.12 for 12 September 2000 to 4 September 2002. He agreed to pay £6329.24 by 8 July 2003 and to pay the £13,859.12 at £500 per month, the first payment on 25 November 2002. His driver's licence could not be removed because he was already disqualified from driving and this disqualification had two years to run;
(10) payment was not made on 25 November 2002 and Mr K was contacted on 10 December 2002 and told that unless payment was made by 13 December 2002 committal proceedings would be restored. A payment of £1500 was paid on 30 December 2002. On 3 January 2003, the Claimant provided details of a bank account into which she would like her maintenance paid. The payment of £1500 cleared through the Agency's system on 7 January 2003 and was paid to The Claimant on 10 January.
The Claimant's case on the facts
39. I have expended all my energy attempting to get the Agency to obtain maintenance payments for me. I have been repeatedly told that the dispute is between the Agency and Mr. K, and does not involve me. I have been repeatedly refused information concerning Mr. K on the grounds that I have no right to this information. I believe I would not have received a fraction of the payments and compensation that has been made had I not continually pressurised the Agency and complained of their inaction and inability to obtain maintenance for me.
40.The combined effect of reduced income and the stress involved in trying to obtain payments from the Agency has seriously affected my family life. I believe that if I had been allowed direct access to the courts to obtain maintenance I would have been successful. The 1991 Act's prohibition on me taking independent action through the courts has left me powerless. My only remedy is to constantly pressurise the Agency which takes no real responsibility for ensuring maintenance is paid and for whom I am a nuisance.
The first issue: arguments advanced on the Claimant's behalf
Article 6(1) applies to any genuine dispute over the existence, scope or manner of exercise of civil rights or obligations which can be said, at least on arguable grounds, to be recognised under domestic law.
Thus where a child is living with one parent who asserts that the other should make a contribution towards that child's maintenance such a dispute exists.
The applicant wishes to obtain a decree of judicial separation. There is no doubt that the outcome of separation proceedings is "decisive for private rights and obligations" within the meaning of Article 6(1)".
This was not, he submitted, disputed in that case by the Irish Government. There was, accordingly, no reason why the same logic should not apply to disputes between husband and wife relating to ancillary relief, including disputes as to the proportionate burden to be borne by each of them in maintaining the children of the marriage. He also relied on the decision of the EctHR in W v UK (1988) 10 EHRR 29, a pre-Children Act 1989 case in which the Court had held that a parent's "right" of access to a child was a civil right.
However, that right would be illusory if a Contracting State's domestic legal system allowed a final, binding judicial decision to remain inoperative to the detriment of one party. It would be inconceivable that Article 6 should describe in detail procedural guarantees afforded to litigants - proceedings that are fair, public and expeditious - without protecting the implementation of judicial decisions; to construe Article 6 as being concerned exclusively with access to a court and the conduct of proceedings would be likely to lead to situations incompatible with the principle of the rule of law….Execution of a judgment given by any court must therefore be regarded as an integral part of the "trial" for the purposes of Article 6; moreover, this court has already accepted this principle in cases concerning the length of proceedings."
It would be inconceivable ……that Article 6 should describe in detail the procedural guarantees afforded to parties in a pending lawsuit and should not first protect that which alone makes it in fact possible to benefit from such guarantees, that is access to a court. The fair, public and expeditious characteristics of judicial proceedings are of no value at all if there are no judicial proceedings."
Violation of the right of access has been found where the Home Secretary prevented a prisoner from consulting a solicitor; [Golder itself]; where a litigant lacking the means to employ a lawyer is not granted legal aid in respect of complex proceedings [Airey - the judicial separation referred to in paragraph 48 of this judgment]; where a statutory body is subrogated to its members rights and has the sole capacity to institute proceedings for recovery of their fees [Philis ]; where uncertainty in the law deprives an individual of a clear practical and effective opportunity to challenge administrative acts which interfere with his rights; where an individual or body is denied legal capacity.
The right of access to a court is not absolute and it may be impliedly limited. The Court's approach to this question is a familiar one as the following passage illustrates:
"The right of access…..may be subject to limitations;….Nonetheless, the limitations applied must not restrict or reduce the access left to the individual in such a way or to such an extent that the very essence of the right is impaired. Furthermore, a limitation will not be compatible with Article 6(1) if it does not pursue a legitimate aim and if there is not a reasonable relationship of proportionality between the means employed and the aim sought to be achieved." [Ashingdane v UK (1985) 7 EHRR 528, at para 57]
This meant that he was dependent on the intervention of a third party, which situation did not make it possible for him to pursue the main proceedings at the time and in the manner which he considered to be appropriate, to have the benefit of the assistance of counsel of his choice, to ensure that the action was well "targeted", to institute subsidiary proceedings and to claim compensation.".
The arguments advanced on behalf of the Secretary of State
1 The Act of 1991 together with regulations made under it provide a detailed and apparently comprehensive code for the collection of payments due under maintenance assessments and the enforcement of liability orders made on the application of the Secretary of State;
2 The only method provided for enforced collection before a liability order is made is a deduction from earnings order made by the Secretary of State himself under s.31;
3 Although section 1(3) provides for a duty which arises when the maintenance assessment is made this duty is not expressed as a civil debt. Mr Crampin accepts that the duty could not be directly enforced by action in any civil court, or by any means other than as provided in the Act...."
It is important to bear in mind that the child support scheme is not simply a method for the State to recoup part of its benefit expenditure from the absent parent. It is a replacement both for the former method of doing this and for the courts' powers to make orders between individuals for periodical payments for the maintenance of children. The person with care may or may not be on benefit and may move between the two. The calculation may differ in such cases but the formula does not …
The child support system has elements of private and public law but fundamentally it is a nationalised system for assessing and enforcing an obligation which each parent owes primarily to the child. It replaces the powers of the courts, which can no longer make orders for periodical payments for children save in very limited circumstances. Unless she can secure a voluntary agreement at least as high as that which the (Agency) would assess, the [parent with care] is expected to look to the Agency to assess her child support according to the formula, whether or not she is on benefit. The fact that it does her no direct good if she is on means-tested benefits, and that much CSA activity so far has been in relation to parents on benefit, does not alter the fundamental characteristics of the scheme
1 she had no right to the sums assessed other than through the provisions of the Act and her right to the sums assessed only arose through that statutory scheme;
2 even with the "rights" under the 1991 Act, she has no debt action for the sums payable under the assessments; and
3 her "rights" might therefore best be described as inchoate rather than as fully-fledged civil rights for the purposes of Article 6.
In the present case, the court is led to the conclusion that the inability of the applicants to sue the local authority flowed not from an immunity but from the applicable principles governing the substantive right of action in domestic law. There is no restriction on access to court of the kind contemplated in Ashingdane v UK  ECHR 8225/78"
"A cause of action in negligence, as a matter of substantive law, requires duty, breach of duty and entitlement to a remedy. The last element is essential to the cause of action…"
Discussion and Analysis
The first question. Is Article 6 engaged at all in this case?
(1) The expression 'civil rights' in art 6 of the convention is autonomous (see König v Germany (1978) 2 EHRR 170 at 192-193 (para 88)). This means that the concept of a 'civil right' cannot be interpreted solely by reference to the domestic law of the member state. It is the view taken of an alleged right for convention purposes which matters.
(2) However, whilst the Strasbourg case law is emphatic that article 6(1) of the convention applies only to civil rights which can be said on arguable grounds to be recognised under domestic law; it does not itself guarantee any particular content for civil rights in any member state (see, for example, Z v UK (2001) 10 BHRC 384 at 405-406, 408 (paragraphs 87, 98)). Thus for purposes of article 6 one must take the domestic law as one finds it, and apply to it the autonomous convention concept of civil rights.
(3) It is evident that the Strasbourg jurisprudence has distinguished between provisions of domestic law which altogether preclude the bringing of an effective claim (as in Powell v UK (1990) 12 EHRR 355 and Z v UK) and provisions of domestic law which impose a procedural bar on the enforcement of a claim (as in Stubbings v UK (1996) 1 BHRC 316, Tinnelly & Sons Ltd v UK (1998) 4 BHRC 393 and Fogarty v UK (2001) 12 BHRC 132).
(4) The European Court of Human Rights has however recognised the difficulty of tracing the dividing line between procedural and substantive limitations of a given entitlement under domestic law, acknowledging that it may be no more than a question of legislative technique whether the limitation is expressed in terms of the right or its remedy (see Fayed v UK (1994) 18 EHRR 393 at 430 (para 67)).
(5) An accurate analysis of a claimant's substantive rights in domestic law is none the less the first essential step towards deciding whether he has, for purposes of the autonomous meaning given to the expression by the convention, a 'civil right' such as will engage the guarantee in article 6
……the power of the court to make provision for a wife on the dissolution of her marriage is a necessary incident of the power to decree such a dissolution, conferred not merely in the interests of the wife, but of the public, and that the wife cannot by her own covenant preclude herself from invoking the jurisdiction of the court or preclude the court from the exercise of that jurisdiction
The public policy which disallows the ouster of the court's jurisdiction by agreement is further demonstrated by section 34(1) of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973, which provides that if a maintenance agreement between spouses includes a provision purporting to restrict any right to apply to a court for an order containing financial arrangements (including arrangements for the support or education of any child, whether or not a child of the family) that provision is void. Other examples could be given.
The Second Question: if Article 6 is engaged, is the scheme under the 1991 Act nonetheless HRA 1998 compliant under Alconbury principles?
The case for the Secretary of State
1 the Claimant having a right of access to the Appeal Tribunal to determine the quantum of maintenance;
2 the statutory scheme preventing - on an application for a liability order which is the gateway to other enforcement action - the maintenance assessments being challenged (see section 33(4));
3 the ability of the Secretary of State to impose a DEO without any court Action - compare the normal position in civil litigation where a county court judgment is first required;
4 the Secretary of State having far wider powers of enforcement than are available to litigants in normal civil proceedings - removal of driving licences, liability orders and distress;
5 the ability of the Claimant to judicially review any failure of the Secretary of State properly to exercise his discretion in relation to enforcement and
6 the evidence before the Court which shows that the Agency nets more money overall for PWCs than did the old system.
"The right is not, however, absolute. It may be subject to legitimate restrictions, for example, statutory limitation periods, security for costs orders, regulations concerning minors and persons of unsound mind. Where the individual's access is limited either by operation of law or in fact, the court will examine whether the limitation imposed impaired the essence of the right and in particular whether it pursued a legitimate aim and there was a reasonable relationship of proportionality between the means employed and the aim sought to be achieved (see Ashingdane at para 57). If the restriction is compatible with those principles, no violation of Article 6 will arise" [emphasis supplied]
Does delay in enforcement of itself infringe Article 6?
The Court reiterates that, according to its established case law, Article 6(1) secures to everyone the right to have any claim relating to his civil rights and obligations brought before a court or tribunal; in this way it embodies the "right to a court", of which the right of access, that is the right to institute proceedings before courts in civil matters, constitutes one aspect. However, that right would be illusory if a Contracting State's domestic legal system allowed a final, binding judicial decision to remain inoperative to the detriment of one party. It would be inconceivable that Article 6 would describe in detail procedural guarantees afforded to litigants without protecting the implementation of judicial decisions; to construe Article 6 as being concerned exclusively with access to a court and the conduct of proceedings would be likely to lead to situations incompatible with the principle of the rule of law which the Contracting States undertook to respect when they ratified the Convention. Execution of a judgement given by any court must therefore be regarded as an integral part of the "trial" for the purposes of Article 6.....
The above principles are of even greater importance in the context of administrative proceedings concerning a dispute whose outcome is decisive for a litigant's civil rights. By lodging an application for judicial review with the State's highest administrative court the litigant seeks not only annulment of the impugned decision but also and above all the removal of its effects. The effective protection of a party to such proceedings and the restoration of legality presuppose an obligation on the administrative authorities' part to comply with a judgement of that court.... Where administrative authorities refuse or fail to comply, or even delay doing so, the guarantees under Article 6 enjoyed by a litigant during the judicial phase of the proceedings are rendered devoid of purpose.
The Second Question: The case for the Claimant
Discussion and analysis:
Is the Scheme under the 1991 Act HRA 1998 compliant on Alconbury principles?
….. this appeal requires the court to revisit what has become well-trodden ground: the impact of ECHR Article 6 upon a statutory regime in which decisions affecting the distribution of particular public benefits or protections (or, sometimes, the imposition of burdens) are taken by an internal or administrative body or official, subject to supervision of the decision's legality by judicial review or an equivalent statutory appeal . The questions which most characteristically arise in litigation relating to such a scheme are the very questions which face us here: (1) does the scheme's operation involve a determination of the claimant's "civil rights and obligations" within the meaning of Article 6(1) and (2) if so, is the second-stage adjudication sufficient, taking the decision-making process as a whole, to "cure the want of compliance with Article 6 inherent in the first stage, it being accepted that the internal or administrative decision-maker lacks the independence which Article 6(1) requires. Despite the breadth and depth of the treatment and the underlying principle in the decision of the House of Lords in Alconbury …… a stream - at any rate more than a trickle - of litigation on these issues in the Administrative Court continues to run. There is some danger, we think, of undermining the imperative of legal certainty by excessive debates over how many angels can stand on the head of the Article 6 pin. This feature and that feature of the scheme in hand are prayed in aid pro and con the contention that the citizen's rights are engaged, and that the Article 6 standards have not been met. In Runa Begum ….. Laws LJ said (in the context of the homeless persons legislation) that "the court has to make a judgment as to the engagement of civil rights and obligations" which cannot be arrived at by the application of any brightline rule" (paragraph 25) And this we think has generally been the case; but it is not satisfactory. Of course it is a virtue of t he common law that it leans against over-rigid classifications. But we need to make the effort of imagination and legal reasoning which will achieve a proper balance between this virtue and that of legal certainty
Nonetheless, in such circumstances, the Convention calls at least for one of the two following systems: either the jurisdictional organs themselves comply with the requirements of article 6(1), or they do not so comply but are subject to subsequent control by a judicial body that has full jurisdiction and does provide the guarantees of article 6(1)
…. the European Court of Human Rights has in fact developed "a jurisprudence by which it has imposed a requirement that all administrative decision should be subject to some form of judicial review" (paragraph 83); it has done so by applying "article 6(1) to administrative decisions on the ground that they can determine of affect rights in private law (paragraph 79 - Laws LJ's emphasis).
While the attribution of this extended sense of "determination of [his] civil rights and obligations" has sufficed to bring most or all administrative or public law decisions within the fold of Article 6, the Strasbourg jurisprudence has not insisted that the review of such decisions by an independent court will only comply with the Convention standard if the reviewing court has full power not only to supervise the legality of the earlier decision, but also to re-decide the facts and merits for itself. The reviewing court must possess what has been called "full jurisdiction"; but that means no more nor less than "full jurisdiction to deal with the case as the nature of the decision requires" (paragraph 87). Thus to the extent that the subject matter of the decision consists in judgments of policy, the first decision-maker need not be independent of the publicly accountable body of which he is a part (and on democratic grounds it may be better that he should not be independent), and conventional judicial review will satisfy Article 6. Where the first decision involves questions of primary fact the position may be different, but even there the first decision maker's expertise and the safeguards surrounding his position, while not on their own sufficient for compliance with Article 6, may be effective to do so in combination with judicial review.
 The importance of this case is that it exposes, more clearly than any earlier case has done, the interrelation between the art 6(1) concept of "civil rights" on the one hand and the art 6(1) requirement of "an independent and impartial tribunal" on the other. The narrower the interpretation given to "civil rights", the greater the need to insist on review by a judicial tribunal exercising full powers. Conversely, the more elastic the interpretation given to "civil rights", the more flexible must be the approach to the requirement of independent and impartial review if the emasculation (by over-judicialisation) of administrative welfare schemes is to be avoided. Once it is accepted that "full jurisdiction" means "full jurisdiction to deal with the case as the nature of the decision requires" (per Lord Hoffmann, R (Alconbury Developments Ltd) v Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions,  2 WLR 1389 at p 1416 of the latter report,  UKHL 23, para 87), it must also be accepted that the decisions whether a right recognised in domestic law is also a "civil right" and whether the procedure provided to determine that right meets the requirements of art 6 are very closely bound up with each other. It is not entirely easy, in a case such as the present, to apply clear rules derived from the Strasbourg case law since, in a way that any common lawyer would recognise and respect, the case law has developed and evolved as new cases have fallen for decision, testing the bounds
set by those already decided.
 The European Court's approach to rights deriving from social welfare schemes has been complicated by differences of legal tradition in various member states, as Lord Hoffmann explains. But comparison of Feldbrugge v The Netherlands (1986) 8 EHRR 425 and Deumeland v Germany (1986) 8 EHRR 448 with Salesi v Italy (1993) 26 EHRR 187 and Mennitto v Italy (2000) 34 EHRR 1122 shows movement from a narrower towards a broader interpretation of "civil rights". Further cases may no doubt continue that trend. To hold that the right enjoyed by Runa Begum is a "civil right" for purposes of art 6 would however be to go further than the Strasbourg court has yet gone, and I am satisfied, in the light of a compelling argument on this point by Mr Sales, that the decision of that court would not, by any means necessarily, be favourable to Runa Begum. So I would prefer to assume, without deciding, that Runa Begum's domestic law right is also a "civil right", and to consider whether, on that assumption, but having regard to the nature of the right, the statutory provision of an appeal to the county court on a point of law satisfies the requirements of art 6.
 I shall have more to say about these extensions of art 6 when I come to deal with the first issue, but for the moment it is sufficient to note that from an early stage the Strasbourg court has recognised that the extension of art 6 into administrative decision-making has required what I called in Alconbury, at p 1415, para 84, "substantial modification of the full judicial model". The most explicit recognition of the problem was by the Commission in Kaplan v United Kingdom (1980) 4 EHRR 64, 90, para 161, where, after noting the limited scope of judicial review in many contracting states and in the law of the European Union, it said:
An interpretation of article 6(1) under which it was held to provide a right to a full appeal on the merits of every administrative decision affecting private right would therefore lead to a result which was inconsistent with the existing and long-standing legal position in most of the contracting states
 The Commission in Kaplan offered what would seem to an English lawyer an elegant solution, which was not to classify the administrative decision as a determination of civil rights or obligations, requiring compliance with art 6, but to treat a dispute on arguable grounds over whether the administrator had acted lawfully as concerned with civil rights and obligations, in respect of which the citizen was entitled to access to a fully independent and impartial tribunal. By this means a state party could be prevented from excluding any judicial review of administrative action (as in the Swedish cases which I have mentioned) but the review could be confined to an examination of the legality rather than the merits of the decision.
 The Strasbourg court, however, has preferred to approach the matter in a different way. It has said, first, that an administrative decision within the extended scope of art 6 is a determination of civil rights and obligations and therefore prima facie has to be made by an independent tribunal. But, secondly, if the administrator is not independent (as will virtually by definition be the case) it is permissible to consider whether the composite procedure of administrative decision together with a right of appeal to a court is sufficient. Thirdly, it will be sufficient if the appellate (or reviewing) court has "full jurisdiction" over the administrative decision. And fourthly, as established in the landmark case of Bryan v United Kingdom (1995) 21 EHRR 342, "full jurisdiction" does not necessarily mean jurisdiction to re-examine the merits of the case but, as I said in Alconbury, at p 1416, para 87, "jurisdiction to deal with the case as the nature of the decision requires."
 It may be that the effect of Bryan is that the Strasbourg court has arrived by the scenic route at the same solution as the Commission advocated in Kaplan, namely that administrative action falling within art 6 (and a good deal of administrative action still does not) should be subject to an examination of its legality rather than its merits by an independent and impartial tribunal. Perhaps that is a larger generalisation than the present state of the law will allow. But, looking at the matter as an English lawyer, it seems to me (as it did to the Commission in Kaplan) that an extension of the scope of art 6 into administrative decision-making must be linked to a willingness to accept by way of compliance something less than a full review of the
 In this way the first and third issues are connected with each other. An English lawyer can view with equanimity the extension of the scope of art 6 because the English conception of the rule of law requires the legality of virtually all governmental decisions affecting the individual to be subject to the scrutiny of the ordinary courts. As Laws LJ pointed out in the Court of Appeal  1 WLR 2491, at p 2500, para 14, of the latter report, all that matters is that the applicant should have a sufficient interest. But this breadth of scope is accompanied by an approach to the grounds of review which requires that regard be had to democratic accountability, efficient administration and the sovereignty of Parliament. As will appear, I think that the Strasbourg jurisprudence gives adequate recognition to all three of these factors.
Are my conclusions inconsistent with previous case law relating to the Agency and the Act?
…….. it is well-established that where a statute creates a new right which has no existence apart from the statute creating it, and at the same time prescribes a particular method for enforcing it in a particular court, it is, in general to that remedy and that court alone that recourse must be had ……Whether or not that is so in particular cases depends on the construction of the Act in question.
As I have indicated the Secretary of State claims in respect of the statutory right co-relative with the obligation expressed in s 1(3). But that obligation and right is not a civil debt in any ordinary sense. First the obligation may only be enforced by the Secretary of State and not by any other person who may be stated to be the payee in the maintenance assessment. Second the Secretary of State's powers of enforcement do not enable him to sue for the arrears in the ordinary way. In the first instance his choice lies between a deduction of earnings order directed to the employer or an application to the magistrates for a liability order. In my judgment neither of those rights is such as would entitle this court, consistently with the decision in The Vera Cruz  1 Lloyd's Rep 353 to grant Mareva relief.
The Child Support Act 1991 introduced a wholly new framework for the assessment and collection of the sums required for the maintenance of children by their parents. There is no provision for the enforcement of any maintenance assessment except by the Secretary of State and his methods of enforcement are limited in the way I have mentioned. It seems to me that it would be inconsistent with the Act as a whole in general and with s 33 in particular if the Secretary of State were to be at liberty to apply for Mareva injunctions in the High Court. If the conditions in s 33(1) are satisfied then Parliament has clearly laid down that the Secretary of State should proceed first in a magistrates' court and then in a county court. If those conditions are not satisfied then Parliament has clearly ordained that the Secretary of State should not be entitled to enforce the maintenance assessment by court process at all.
No doubt clear words or a necessary implication are required to exclude the jurisdiction of the court. The suggested exclusion in this case is of the High Court's ordinary civil jurisdiction which includes the power to grant injunctions. In my judgment the detailed provisions contained in the Act which I have described show clearly that Parliament intended that all questions concerning the enforcement of maintenance assessments should be determined exclusively by the Secretary of State, a magistrates' court or a county court. The civil jurisdiction of the High Court is, in my view, necessarily excluded.
It is quite clear in my judgment that - putting the matter generally - both the statutory scheme and the CSA's administration of it are Convention compliant. The Commission and the Court have thus far declared all challenges manifestly ill-founded. But the matter does not end there. The Strasbourg jurisprudence is perfectly clear."
 If I may respectfully say so, the approach adopted in these cases by the commission and the court is, in my judgment, manifestly correct. As the commission put it in Burrows v UK, it is in the public interest to have a scheme which aims to reduce taxation and increase parental responsibility. As the court said in Stacey v UK, it is in the interests of the general community that the state should be able, by recovering maintenance from absent parents, to reduce the burden on the tax-payer of single parent families. The statutory scheme manifestly pursues a legitimate aim, whether one has regard to Article 8 or to Article 1of Protocol 1.
 I also entirely agree with the way in which, as I have summarised it in para  above, the United Kingdom put the matter in argument in Logan v UK. There is, in my judgment, a pressing social need to ensure that parents fulfil their responsibilities to their children. The statutory scheme, and the CSA's administration of it, strike a fair and reasonable balance between, on the one hand, the absent parent's responsibilities for his or her children and, on the other hand, the need for a system that (i) produces fair and consistent results, (ii) preserves the parents' incentive to work, (iii) reduces the dependency of parents with care on income support and (iv) provides consequent savings to tax-payers. In other words the statutory scheme achieves a reasonable relationship of proportionality between the legitimate aims of the legislation and the means employed.
.What remedies does the Claimant have?