Adoption and Children Bill

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Jacqui Smith: To the extent that adoption is a devolved matter for the Scottish Parliament, it is not appropriate for me to answer for Scottish Ministers. What I can tell the Committee is that Scotland is currently reviewing adoption law generally. We are working closely together on the designated list—which is what I referred to under new clause 17—because the new provision will allow Scottish Ministers and Ministers in England and Wales to work together to ensure that, in future, adoption orders made overseas will be recognised in the United Kingdom only when the systems in that country meet criteria set out in regulations and which I spelled out when I was outlining new clause 17.

It is not possible for me to give the Committee assurances about something for which I am not responsible, but I can tell the hon. Gentleman that we have, in the process of developing this legislation, worked closely with Ministers in Scotland and with colleagues in the National Assembly for Wales. There is a clear view that we must avoid the scenario suggested by the hon. Gentleman in which we see people from each part of the kingdom as overseas

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adopters or our processes became so out of step that it is difficult for individuals going through the adoption process to see the sense of the range of procedures across the United Kingdom.

Ironically, the need to ensure that the people on the receiving end are not confused by differences between the various procedures has resulted in the legislation being complex in order to ensure that the process is simple and joined up.

The hon. Gentleman asked about commencement for Scotland. That will be a matter for Scottish Ministers. I am sure that people there are raising the same points about the need to make progress in Scotland as have rightly arisen in discussion on this Bill.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendments made: No. 264, in page 73, line 30, leave out 'Section 120' and insert

    'Sections 120 and [Amendment of Adoption (Scotland) Act 1978: overseas adoptions],'.

No. 265, in page 73, line 32, at end insert—

    '( ) Paragraph 15 of Schedule 4 and, so far as relating to that paragraph, section 124 (2) are to come into force on such day as the Scottish Ministers may by order appoint.'—[Jacqui Smith.]

Jacqui Smith: I beg to move amendment No. 266, in page 73, line 33, leave out '3(4)' and insert '3(3) and (4)'.

We turn our attention from northwards to westwards, and Wales—[Interruption]. That is just to show my understanding of geography. Clause 133 makes provision for commencement, as we have discussed. The amendment adds clause 3(3). Hon. Members will remember that that refers to adoption support provisions, which are to come into force on a day appointed by the appropriate Minister. Clause 3(3)(a) enables regulations to be made extending the duty on local authorities to make and participate in arrangements to provide adoption support services to persons prescribed in regulations. Clause 3(3)(b) gives local authorities a power to extend their arrangements for the provision of adoption support services to any other person. That combination of a duty and a power provides the flexibility needed by local authorities in this area. The amendment would enable Ministers in England and Wales to commence the provisions in clause 3(3) separately, should they wish to do so. Ministers will also have the flexibility to prescribe different requirements in the regulations as to the persons to whom local authorities must make adoption support services available. That will ensure that the regulations are appropriately tailored to meet the needs of people living in England and Wales in relation to adoption support services. I hope that, in light of this explanation, hon. Members will feel able to accept the amendment.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendments made: No. 231, in page 73, line 33, after '51(1) to (3)', insert—

    '[Disclosing information during adoption process]'.

No. 232, in page 73, line 33, after '62', insert—

    '[Disclosing protected information about adults] and [Disclosing protected information about children]'.—[Jacqui Smith.]

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Clause 133, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 134


Jacqui Smith: I beg to move amendment No. 267, in page 74, line 3, at end insert—

    '( ) So far as relating to provisions extending to Scotland, section 124 extends also to Scotland.

    ( ) In Schedule 4, paragraph 15 extends only to Scotland'.

Clause 134 defines the extent of the Bill. The majority of the Bill applies to England and Wales. In addition, the provisions listed at subsection (3) also extend to Scotland and Northern Ireland. This is a technical amendment, which seeks to correct a small error in the final provisions of the Bill. The amendment amends clause 134 in so far as the provisions in schedules 3, 4 and 5 extend to Scotland and clause 124 introduces schedules 3, 4 and 5 of the Bill. The second new subsection provides for paragraph 15 of schedule 4 to extend to Scotland only. Paragraph 15 of schedule 4 enables the provisions for parental responsibility orders in the Children (Scotland) Act 1995 to apply to a case in which a child has been freed for adoption or is the subject of an order made under section 55 of the Adoption Act 1976, where the application for the freeing order or the section 55 order is made before the 1976 Act is repealed. Section 55 of the 1976 Act provides for the transfer of parental responsibility prior to adoption abroad. I hope that, in light of this explanation, hon. Members will feel able to accept the amendment.

Amendment agreed to.

Clause 134, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 135

Short title

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

4 pm

Tim Loughton: I gather that there have been occasions when the clause relating to the short title of a Bill has exercised the minds of members of a Committee for several hours. Given that the title of this Bill amounts to only four words, including the word ''Bill'', it would require greater parliamentary expertise than that available to me to spin out such a debate for longer than a few minutes. However, it occurred to me that during our proceedings in the past many weeks and on Second Reading before that, hon. Members have constantly been upbraided, not least by the hon. Member for Sheffield, Heeley (Ms Munn), because this Bill is not the Children's Bill, which we were trying to amend in 1989. We have often made the mistake of referring to this legislation as the Adoption and Children's Bill when it is the Adoption and Children Bill, which will become the Adoption and Children Act. Given that there is a possibility that the title of this legislation could be shortened to the Children Act, there is potential for confusion with the

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Children Act 1989, which it is now too late to amend, in spite of the fact that many of us have slipped into misnaming it the Children's Act.

Therefore, it may be helpful to the many people who will come after us and refer to the excellent legislation that we are about to wave on its way through the parliamentary process, and to the many people who will seek to amend it, which may seem strange because we, or at least the Government, think that the legislation is near perfect, were we to admit defeat to the mistakes that we have maken—[Hon. Members: ''Maken?'']—that we have been making and to amend the Bill's short title to the Adoption and Children's Bill. Then there would be no source of confusion. That would make its title very different from that of the 1989 Act, we would have put the Committee's imprimatur on the Bill and what was previously regarded as the wrong usage would become the correct usage. I hope that that is a helpful suggestion.

Mr. Walter: I shall speak exceedingly briefly. I hope that the Minister will reassure us that the Government will table an amendment to the clause on Report because its short title is the Adoption and Children Act 2001, but time has moved on.

Jacqui Smith: The hon. Member for East Worthing and Shoreham made an interesting contribution. I notice that he has not had the courage of his convictions to table an amendment. I am unsure whether, when people look back on our proceedings, they will commend us most on our discussion about changing the Bill's title. On that basis, I do not agree with the hon. Gentleman.

If the hon. Member for North Dorset is right, the change in date will be picked up automatically in the next print of the Bill. Presumably, the process is like the automatic ticking over of a—

The Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department (Ms Rosie Winterton): Clock?

Jacqui Smith: Thank you. That happens automatically as part of the parliamentary process, but I assure the hon. Member for North Dorset that if I am wrong and it is necessary to put the matter before Parliament, we will do so. In the meantime, I urge the Committee to agree that the title of the Bill should be the Adoption and Children Bill, and hope that we will soon be able to celebrate it becoming the Adoption and Children Act.

Mr. Brazier: I hope that you will indulge me for a moment, Mrs. Roe, to make an observation on clause 135. There is currently much discussion about parliamentary reform, especially relating to what might happen in the other place. It is a curious anomaly, which struck me first when considering a different Bill, that each Bill that comes before a Committee of the House of Commons contains a clause that gives the Bill's short title. There is no corresponding clause that gives its long title. That means that, unlike in the other place, the long title may not be amended in the House of Commons.

I am certain that every member of the Committee understands the profound difference that that makes,

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because the long title governs what can be debated in Committee and in the House. With future debates in mind, which I would be ruled out of order for referring to at any greater length now, it is worth while highlighting in this relatively uncontentious and interesting Bill that there might be scope for some change in that area.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 135 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

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