(Queen's Bench, Administrative Court; Black J; 5 March 2008)
The father appealed against the Child Support Agency's maintenance assessment. The Appeal Tribunal ordered the Secretary of State to send the father copies of all documents relating to him that were retained by the Agency. By the date of the hearing some, but not all, documents had been made available. The tribunal chairman decided that the missing documents could not have any effect on the maintenance calculations and proceeded with the appeal. The father challenged the Agency's deliberate decision not to obey the disclosure orders.
Once the Child Support Agency was seized of a claim that came within its remit, it was not open to the person required to pay child support to launch an inquiry into the method by which the claim had come to the Agency. The interest of the person required to pay child support was limited to the accuracy of the maintenance calculation. The role of the Tribunal was to check the agency's child support calculations. None of the undisclosed material held on file by the Agency would have been relevant to the appeal, and the Tribunal had been entitled to proceed without it. However, the Secretary of State should not have simply failed to comply with the disclosure order, but should rather have sought a variation of the disclosure order. The decision not to comply with the orders had been irrational.