Adoption and Children Bill

[back to previous text]

Mr. Shaw indicated dissent.

Mr. Djanogly: I can speak only from my own experience, and I assure the hon. Gentleman that three-year-old children often have a view on what they

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want. Furthermore, I suggest, but not from experience, that a three-year-old child who has been abused will certainly have an opinion.

Mr. Shaw: Does the hon. Gentleman not agree that the point that he makes about two and three-year-olds is absolute rubbish?

Mr. Djanogly: I cannot agree with that.

I have discussed time limits under previous amendments. I did not specify a particular period in previous amendments, but in amendment No. 140 I have taken the concept slightly further and suggested a period of three months. The Minister has kindly discussed the issue, but I would be interested in her opinion on such a time limit. Most issues that go to court have time limits, except for crime. I suggest that the same should apply in this instance, which would provide fairness for all parties.

Proposed subsections (14) and (15) deal with the cost of the meetings of the panels and any appeals to the High Court. Proposed subsection (14) suggests that the Government should pay the reasonable costs of the child and the adoption agency in all cases. Many adoption organisations and agencies have contacted us to say that the concept of appeal is fair, but the Government need to realise that that needs funding. Some organisations think that court or panel cases could bankrupt them.

Those organisations are also concerned that paying for the legal costs of court cases is hardly the best way to use their often hard-raised charitable funds, or an attractive way to encourage fundraisers to contribute further. That is a problem for charities. How does the Minister propose that the costs of panels be apportioned for charities and children? When any other person, say a prospective adoptive parent, wins their case at the panel or in the High Court as proposed, the Government should pay the reasonable costs of the opponent, too. That is the purpose of proposed subsection (15).

Mr. Llwyd: I understand why the amendment was moved, and it was for the best of reasons, but there are problems. The hon. Member for Cardiff, West (Kevin Brennan) has pointed out the difference between a review and an appeal. It would be unrealistic for the High Court to second-guess every panel decision. If the provisions were limited to a point of law, misdirection or conduct, I would be able to accept them fully, but the High Court bench is already hugely overburdened, despite the recent appointment of several new High Court judges to deal with human rights legislation. The machinery is not there.

Mr. Djanogly: I understand the hon. Gentleman' concerns about the reasons for taking a case to the High Court, but surely he is not suggesting that the High Court being too busy to deal with a case is a good reason not to take the case to it?

Mr. Llwyd: The amendment appears to be a carte blanche for a second-guessing operation by the High Court. If I understood the Minister correctly, there is a right to judicial review in any event, so the point has

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been dealt with. I understand and appreciate the reason for the amendment, and applaud the fact that the rights of the child appear to be paramount, although in a slightly misguided manner—I am not sure what consent one could receive from a child aged one—but, with great respect, I say that the amendment is misplaced.

Mr. Walter: I would not have spoken to the amendment but for the case of a couple I met in my surgery on Friday. A couple who had hoped to adopt a brother and sister came to me with a tale that neatly fits into our proceedings and demonstrates why I hope that the Minister can consider the amendment.

The prospective adoptive parents lived in my local authority area, but another local authority some distance away had placed two children with them. One child was disturbed, but the couple had managed to cope. However, their way of dealing with the brother

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and sister in their family environment did not meet the game plan of the social services department that had placed the child. That department had therefore taken the children back, and the siblings had been through a series of foster carers who had all met the same problems—

It being One o'clock, The Chairman proceeded, pursuant to Sessional Order D [28 June] and the Order of the Committee [27 November], to put forthwith the Question already proposed from the Chair.

Question, That the amendment be made, put and negatived.

The Chairman then proceeded to put forthwith the Questions necessary to dispose of the business to be concluded at that time.

Clauses 12 to 16, 115 to 119 and 122 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

        Adjourned at One o'clock till this day at half-past Four o'clock.

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        Roe, Mrs. Marion (

        Chairman

        Bellingham, Mr.

        Blackman, Liz

        Brazier, Mr.

        Brennan, Kevin

        Dawson, Mr.

        Djanogly, Mr.

        Fitzpatrick, Jim

        Gidley, Sandra

        Llwyd, Mr.

Column Number: 688

        Loughton, Tim

        Love, Mr.

        Moran, Margaret

        Munn, Ms

        Shaw, Mr.

        Smith, Jacqui

        Walter, Mr.

        Winterton, Ms Rosie

 
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