Select Committee on Delegated Powers and Deregulation Thirteenth Report



PART V

MISCELLANEOUS AND SUPPLEMENTAL

CLAUSE 79 - TESTS FOR DETERMINING PARENTAGE

460.  This clause amends the Family Law Reform Act 1969 to make changes to arrangements for court-ordered blood tests to determine parentage. These changes provide for tests to be carried out by employees of accredited laboratories rather than by individual testers approved by the Lord Chancellor. The clause amends an existing regulation-making power in the 1969 Act.

461.  Section 22 of the 1969 Act enables the Lord Chancellor to make regulations as to the manner of giving effect to court directions for blood tests. It provides for those regulations to cover a number of specific issues, including the appointment of individual medical practitioners to conduct tests; procedures for taking, identifying and transporting blood samples; the manner in which blood tests are to be carried out; and the charges that may be made for the taking and testing of samples. Provisions of this nature are embodied in the Blood Tests (Evidence of Paternity) Regulations 1971 (as amended).

462.  Subsection (3) of clause 79 makes two amendments to section 22(1) of the 1969 Act relating to the Lord Chancellor's powers to make regulations in this area. First, section 22(1)(a) is amended to enable the Lord Chancellor to appoint registered medical practitioners or members of such professional bodies as may be prescribed by the regulations to take bodily samples. Secondly, section 22(1)(e) is amended to enable the Lord Chancellor to prescribe conditions that a body must meet in order to be eligible for accreditation for the purposes of carrying out court-ordered testing.

463.  The present system of individually appointed testers is cumbersome to administer, and in a number of ways fails to provide adequate safeguards to ensure that testing is carried out properly and effectively. For example, it does not allow standards to be set for the laboratory conditions under which testers work, or the quality standards which should apply. By moving to a system of accredited laboratories, the Lord Chancellor will be able to prescribe conditions that a body must meet to be eligible for accreditation, including ensuring that satisfactory laboratory conditions are in place, and that minimum qualifications for testers are established. This will also provide an opportunity to amend the existing regulations to update the fees payable for testing, and to cover testing on other bodily samples as well as blood, in accordance with the Department's intention to bring into force section 23 of the Family Law Reform Act 1987 (which allows such tests).

464.  The powers given under subsection (3) of clause 79 amend an existing regulation-making power rather than create a new one. It is thus appropriate that these matters should continue to be dealt with in delegated legislation. In reviewing and amending the existing regulations, the Lord Chancellor will ensure that consultation takes place with practitioners and professional bodies with expertise in the area.

CLAUSE 80(2) - DECLARATIONS OF STATUS

465.  This clause amends Part III of the Family Law Act 1986 to make changes to the procedure for obtaining a declaration of parentage from the courts, in order to create a single procedure which is valid for all purposes and which is available at all levels of court.

466.  Clause 80 inserts a new section 55A into the 1986 Act. Subsection (6) of the new section provides that where a declaration of parentage is made by the court on an application under the new section, the court shall notify the Registrar General of the making of the declaration, in such a manner and within such period as may be prescribed. This reproduces for these purposes the provision already contained in section 56 of the 1986 Act in relation to declarations as to legitimacy or legitimation.

467.  The purpose of these provisions is to enable the Registrar General to consider whether to authorise the re-registration of the birth of the person concerned on the basis of the declaration of parentage. The Registrar General has discretion to do this under section 14A of the Births and Deaths Registration Act 1953, and clause 80 does not change the law in this respect.

468.  No regulations have as yet been made under section 56 of the 1986 Act regarding the manner or period within which declarations as to legitimacy or legitimation are to be notified to the Registrar General, and the Department has no immediate plans to do so, or to make regulations under the new section 55A. However, the Department considers it appropriate that the power to prescribe such conditions as may be necessary should be a matter for delegated legislation.

CLAUSE 83 - COMMENCEMENT AND TRANSITIONAL PROVISIONS

469.  Clause 83(5) provides the power to make transitional provision in relation to bringing into force clauses 34 to 37.

470.  It is intended that transitional regulations will determine when the new provisions come into effect in a particular scheme.

471.  The intention is to allow schemes to introduce the new arrangements to coincide with the expiry of the existing arrangements (as determined in accordance with regulation 20 of the Occupational Pension Schemes (Member-nominated Trustees and Directors) Regulations 1996 SI 1216).

472.  This will mean a period where both the new and the existing provisions operate concurrently. It is intended that regulations under this clause will determine which provisions apply to a particular scheme at a particular time.


 
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