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Baroness O'Cathain: My Lords, I did not say that at all. I never mentioned social engineering or political correctness.

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, I apologise. It is something the noble Baroness said on Report and was referred to by a number of other noble Lords. I want to say clearly that there is no question here of social engineering. It is simply a question of seeking to provide the best basis possible for ensuring that vulnerable people are given all the support they can get within loving families. As my noble friend Lady Hayman said, there is not a division between those who argue for the rights of children against the rights of adults. This is about children.

It is why we made so many improvements to the Bill, such as advocacy, financial support, ensuring rights of access to information about adoption, and improved placement provision. Those amendments were supported and inspired by adoption and children's organisations. Noble Lords have listened to them and attached their names to so many of the key amendments which we have accepted in a spirit of consensus.

On the question of unmarried couples, why would noble Lords, who have faithfully replayed the views of those organisations on so many occasions, reject the wisdom and experience of those organisations such as BAAF and Barnado's? Listen to Barnado's. It says that the issue has been portrayed as an attack on marriage and a dilution of the importance of the family. In fact, says Barnado's, it is the opposite in that those amendments seek to strengthen the security of couples who wish to provide a secure home base for an adopted child, but who do not choose to, or cannot, marry. Barnado's recognises that the Bill's construction is such as to ensure that the child's interests are paramount.

It was the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chelmsford who mentioned the question of social engineering. I can reassure him that it is not. It is about children—vulnerable children, often lonely children, children with multiple deprivation, or children who have been grossly neglected. Of all the Bills that I have taken through your Lordships' House—and that is quite a few—this is by far the most important. My noble friend Lady Billingham summed it up so well. The Bill will give hope to thousands and thousands of

5 Nov 2002 : Column 620

young people. It would be so much better if unmarried couples can be permitted to adopt jointly. I urge the House to reject the noble Earl's amendment.

Earl Howe: My Lords, this has been a good debate and it is time to vote. I shall make one or two points. Many noble Lords will have made up their minds on the issue long before we started debating today. The best I can hope to do is influence those who have not done so. To those noble Lords I say that I have not heard anything today which has tempted me to change my mind. I believe that the Commons amendments are misconceived.

I say to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd, that I do not believe he did anything to counter the point that I was trying to make—and made very well by the noble Earl, Lord Erroll—that to grant rights to unmarried partnerships without defining the nature and status of those partnerships in law is premature and exceedingly ill-advised, not least in the area of property rights when the relationship breaks down.

Baroness Hayman: My Lords, I thank the noble Earl for giving way. It is a fallacy to talk about giving rights to unmarried partners. What we are talking about is giving rights to the adopted children of single people who live with partners who would have no legal responsibilities towards them otherwise.

Earl Howe: My Lords, I agree that this is not a debate about the rights of adults and there is no difference between us there. But like it or not, the effect of the Commons amendments would be to grant rights to individuals who do not have those rights at the moment. That was all that I was seeking to say.

The Minister knows perfectly well that the Children Act provisions are much weaker than those available to the matrimonial court. The Minister in another place, Jacqui Smith, had it right last November when she argued cogently and at length for the law to remain as it is for that reason and for others. Above all, a change in the law would do the one thing which none of us wants; that is, to take a gamble and thereby create an added risk for very vulnerable children. Is it right that we should place a child into a legal relationship with two adults who have no legal relationship with each other? I do not think so.

Those who say that there is nothing worse than being in the care system need to reflect on whether there is in fact something potentially worse; that is, to be an adopted child and then suffer the trauma of an adoption that breaks down when the adopters split up. That is the risk that my amendments are trying to minimise.

I am dismayed by the raft of new amendments from another place not only because they have not been properly debated, or debated at all, but because of what they do. It is perhaps enough to say that they have the effect of undermining marriage in what I see as a deeply regrettable way.

One thing I do feel is that this should not be a debate about discriminating between one group of cohabitees and another. There may be some of your Lordships

5 Nov 2002 : Column 621

who feel inclined to vote for the amendment in the name of my noble friend Lord Jenkin. I hope that anyone in that position will think again. But if they cannot, I hope that at the very least they will vote for my amendment in the first instance. I say that for two reasons. The first is that to vote against me or to abstain would split the vote. The second is that my noble friend's amendment, which he has presented as a compromise, is in fact no such thing. It stands not a ghost of a chance of being accepted by the Government. If the Bill runs the risk of running out of time, my amendment is more likely to be accepted for the very good reason that it represents the Government's own policy. If there is any concern about ECHR compatibility, it surely centres on my noble friend's amendment. For that reason, I do not believe that the Government, or for that matter another place, would wish to entertain it.

It is a very important matter. The House is entitled to reject the Commons amendments for a second time. It is entitled at least to urge the Government to implement their own policy. I believe that it should now do so and I therefore commend the amendment to the House.

6.43 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 26AB) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 184; Not-Contents, 215.

Division No. 1

CONTENTS

Aberdare, L.
Ackner, L.
Allenby of Megiddo, V.
Alton of Liverpool, L.
Ampthill, L.
Anelay of St Johns, B.
Arran, E.
Ashcroft, L.
Astor of Hever, L.
Attlee, E.
Barber of Tewkesbury, L.
Bell, L.
Black of Crossharbour, L.
Blackwell, L.
Blatch, B.
Boardman, L.
Boothroyd, B.
Boston of Faversham, L.
Brennan, L.
Bridgeman, V.
Bridges, L.
Brookman, L.
Brooks of Tremorfa, L.
Brougham and Vaux, L.
Bruce of Donington, L.
Burnham, L.
Butler of Brockwell, L.
Carlisle of Bucklow, L.
Carnegy of Lour, B.
Chalfont, L.
Chan, L.
Chelmsford, Bp.
Chester, Bp.
Clarke of Hampstead, L.
Cockfield, L.
Cooke of Islandreagh, L.
Cope of Berkeley, L.
Courtown, E.
Craig of Radley, L.
Crathorne, L.
Cumberlege, B.
Davies of Coity, L.
Deedes, L.
Denham, L.
Dixon, L.
Dixon-Smith, L.
Dundee, E.
Elles, B.
Elliott of Morpeth, L.
Elton, L.
Emerton, B.
Erroll, E.
Evans of Parkside, L.
Feldman, L.
Ferrers, E.
Fitt, L.
Fookes, B.
Forsyth of Drumlean, L.
Fraser of Carmyllie, L.
Freeman, L.
Gardner of Parkes, B.
Geddes, L.
Glentoran, L.
Gray of Contin, L.
Greenway, L.
Griffiths of Fforestfach, L.
Guthrie of Craigiebank, L.
Hanham, B.
Hannay of Chiswick, L.
Hanson, L.
Hayhoe, L.
Home, E.
Hooper, B.
Howe, E.
Howell of Guildford, L.
Hunt of Wirral, L.
Hussey of North Bradley, L.
Hylton, L.
Islwyn, L.
James of Holland Park, B.
Jauncey of Tullichettle, L.
Jellicoe, E.
Jopling, L.
Kilclooney, L.
Kimball, L.
Kingsland, L.
Kirkham, L.
Kirkhill, L.
Knight of Collingtree, B.
Laing of Dunphail, L.
Laird, L.
Lane, L.
Lane of Horsell, L.
Lang of Monkton, L.
Lindsay, E.
Liverpool, E.
Lofthouse of Pontefract, L.
Luke, L.
Lyell, L.
McColl of Dulwich, L.
McFarlane of Llandaff, B.
MacGregor of Pulham Market, L.
Mackay of Clashfern, L.
Maginnis of Drumglass, L.
Marlesford, L.
Masham of Ilton, B.
Mason of Barnsley, L.
Mayhew of Twysden, L.
Miller of Hendon, B.
Mishcon, L.
Molyneaux of Killead, L.
Monro of Langholm, L.
Monson, L.
Moran, L.
Mowbray and Stourton, L.
Murton of Lindisfarne, L.
Neill of Bladen, L.
Noakes, B.
Northbourne, L.
Northbrook, L.
O'Cathain, B. [Teller]
Onslow, E.
Oppenheim-Barnes, B.
Orme, L.
Owen, L.
Oxfuird, V.
Palmer, L.
Park of Monmouth, B.
Pearson of Rannoch, L.
Peel, E.
Peyton of Yeovil, L.
Pilkington of Oxenford, L.
Platt of Writtle, B.
Plumb, L.
Plummer of St. Marylebone, L.
Powell of Bayswater, L.
Prior, L.
Quinton, L.
Quirk, L.
Randall of St. Budeaux, L.
Rawlinson of Ewell, L.
Reay, L.
Rees, L.
Rees-Mogg, L.
Renton, L.
Roberts of Conwy, L.
Rotherwick, L.
Saatchi, L.
Sanderson of Bowden, L.
Seccombe, B. [Teller]
Selsdon, L.
Shaw of Northstead, L.
Sheppard of Didgemere, L.
Shrewsbury, E.
Slim, V.
Soulsby of Swaffham Prior, L.
Sterling of Plaistow, L.
Stevens of Ludgate, L.
Stewartby, L.
Stodart of Leaston, L.
Stoddart of Swindon, L.
Stokes, L.
Strabolgi, L.
Strange, B.
Strathclyde, L.
Swinfen, L.
Taylor of Warwick, L.
Tebbit, L.
Tenby, V.
Thomas of Gwydir, L.
Thomas of Swynnerton, L.
Tombs, L.
Trumpington, B.
Vinson, L.
Waddington, L.
Wade of Chorlton, L.
Wakefield, Bp.
Wakeham, L.
Walker of Doncaster, L.
Walker of Worcester, L.
Wilberforce, L.
Wilcox, B.
Williamson of Horton, L.
Wolfson, L.

NOT-CONTENTS

Acton, L.
Addington, L.
Adebowale, L.
Alexander of Weedon, L.
Alli, L.
Andrews, B.
Ashley of Stoke, L.
Ashton of Upholland, B.
Avebury, L.
Bach, L.
Barker, B. [Teller]
Barnett, L.
Bassam of Brighton, L.
Beaumont of Whitley, L.
Bernstein of Craigweil, L.
Best, L.
Biffen, L.
Billingham, B.
Birt, L.
Blackstone, B.
Bledisloe, V.
Borrie, L.
Bowness, L.
Bragg, L.
Brett, L.
Brightman, L.
Brooke of Alverthorpe, L.
Brooke of Sutton Mandeville, L.
Burlison, L.
Burns, L.
Campbell of Alloway, L.
Campbell-Savours, L.
Carlile of Berriew, L.
Carter, L.
Chalker of Wallasey, B.
Chandos, V.
Christopher, L.
Clinton-Davis, L.
Cohen of Pimlico, B.
Condon, L.
Cooke of Thorndon, L.
Corbett of Castle Vale, L.
Craigavon, V.
Crawley, B.
Crickhowell, L.
Dahrendorf, L.
Darcy de Knayth, B.
David, B.
Davies of Oldham, L.
Desai, L.
Dholakia, L.
Dormand of Easington, L.
Dubs, L.
Eatwell, L.
Elder, L.
Evans of Temple Guiting, L.
Falconer of Thoroton, L.
Farrington of Ribbleton, B.
Faulkner of Worcester, L.
Fearn, L.
Filkin, L.
Finlay of Llandaff, B.
Flather, B.
Freyberg, L.
Fyfe of Fairfield, L.
Gale, B.
Garel-Jones, L.
Gavron, L.
Gibson of Market Rasen, B.
Gilbert, L.
Gilmour of Craigmillar, L.
Gladwin of Clee, L.
Glenarthur, L.
Goldsmith, L.
Goodhart, L.
Gordon of Strathblane, L.
Goudie, B.
Gould of Potternewton, B. [Teller]
Graham of Edmonton, L.
Greaves, L.
Greengross, B.
Grenfell, L.
Grocott, L.
Hamwee, B.
Hardy of Wath, L.
Harris of Haringey, L.
Harris of Richmond, B.
Harrison, L.
Haskel, L.
Hattersley, L.
Hayman, B.
Hilton of Eggardon, B.
Hollis of Heigham, B.
Holme of Cheltenham, L.
Howarth of Breckland, B.
Howe of Idlicote, B.
Howells of St. Davids, B.
Howie of Troon, L.
Hoyle, L.
Hughes of Woodside, L.
Hunt of Chesterton, L.
Hunt of Kings Heath, L.
Irvine of Lairg, L. (Lord Chancellor)
Jacobs, L.
Janner of Braunstone, L.
Jay of Paddington, B.
Jeger, B.
Jenkin of Roding, L.
Jenkins of Hillhead, L.
Judd, L.
Kennedy of The Shaws, B.
King of Bridgwater, L.
King of West Bromwich, L.
Laming, L.
Layard, L.
Lea of Crondall, L.
Lester of Herne Hill, L.
Lipsey, L.
Listowel, E.
Lloyd of Berwick, L.
Lockwood, B.
Lucas, L.
McCarthy, L.
Macdonald of Tradeston, L.
McIntosh of Haringey, L.
McIntosh of Hudnall, B.
MacKenzie of Culkein, L.
Mackie of Benshie, L.
Maclennan of Rogart, L.
McNally, L.
Maddock, B.
Mallalieu, B.
Marsh, L.
Massey of Darwen, B.
Merlyn-Rees, L.
Methuen, L.
Mitchell, L.
Montagu of Beaulieu, L.
Morgan, L.
Morgan of Huyton, B.
Morris of Manchester, L.
Newby, L.
Newcastle, Bp.
Nicol, B.
Northover, B.
Norton of Louth, L.
Oakeshott of Seagrove Bay, L.
Ouseley, L.
Oxford, Bp.
Pendry, L.
Peston, L.
Phillips of Sudbury, L.
Pitkeathley, B.
Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L.
Prashar, B.
Prys-Davies, L.
Radice, L.
Ramsay of Cartvale, B.
Razzall, L.
Redesdale, L.
Rendell of Babergh, B.
Rennard, L.
Richard, L.
Rix, L.
Rodgers of Quarry Bank, L.
Rogers of Riverside, L.
Roll of Ipsden, L.
Rooker, L.
Roper, L.
Russell, E.
Russell-Johnston, L.
Sainsbury of Turville, L.
St John of Fawsley, L.
Saltoun of Abernethy, Ly.
Sandwich, E.
Sawyer, L.
Scotland of Asthal, B.
Scott of Needham Market, B.
Selborne, E.
Sharp of Guildford, B.
Sheldon, L.
Shutt of Greetland, L.
Simon, V.
Simon of Glaisdale, L.
Smith of Clifton, L.
Smith of Leigh, L.
Stone of Blackheath, L.
Symons of Vernham Dean, B.
Tanlaw, L.
Taverne, L.
Taylor of Blackburn, L.
Temple-Morris, L.
Thomas of Walliswood, B.
Thomson of Monifieth, L.
Thornton, B.
Tomlinson, L.
Tope, L.
Tugendhat, L.
Turner of Camden, B.
Wallace of Saltaire, L.
Walmsley, B.
Walpole, L.
Warner, L.
Warnock, B.
Warwick of Undercliffe, B.
Watson of Richmond, L.
Wedderburn of Charlton, L.
Whitaker, B.
Whitty, L.
Wigoder, L.
Wilkins, B.
Williams of Elvel, L.
Williams of Mostyn, L. (Lord Privy Seal)
Wilson of Tillyorn, L.
Woolmer of Leeds, L.
Young of Old Scone, B.

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

5 Nov 2002 : Column 624

6.57 p.m.


26ACLord Jenkin of Roding moved, as an amendment to the Motion that the House do not insist on its Amendment No. 26 to which the Commons have disagreed, and do agree with the Commons in their Amendments Nos. 26A to 26UU in lieu thereof, leave out from "26" to end and insert ", do disagree with the Commons in their Amendments Nos. 26A to 26UU in lieu thereof, and do propose the following amendments in lieu of the Commons amendments— 26AD Page 27, line 39, at end insert "provided that such regulations shall cover married couples, unmarried couples consisting of a man and a woman living together and single persons, but shall not cover couples of the same sex"


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