Clause 3. — (Consent to Adoption.)
Orders of the Day — Adoption of Children Bill
Mr Kenneth Younger (Grimsby)
I do not know what protection my hon. Friend thought it gave. It gives protection against the thing which is stated—if consent has been given and is then withdrawn only on the ground that identity is withheld, it can be deemed to be unreasonably withheld. Apart from that the only protection which is given is contained in Clause 3 (1), which is not affected by this Amendment, and which sets out in paragraphs (a), (b) and (c) the circumstances in which the court may dispense with consent on the grounds inter alia that consent is unreasonably withheld. These safeguards are not complete, and there must be an element of discretion. The range of circumstances in which the court may take such consents to 'be unreasonably withheld, and consequently the protection given under Clause 3 (1), must in the nature of things be relatively limited.
I am sorry to have taken up so much of the time of the House, but this is a difficult problem on which a wide range of views has been expressed, and I wished to cover the ground. The proposals which I am putting before the House probably do not give any of the contestants, if I may so describe them, a 100 per cent. of what they want but I suggest that they are a reasonable compromise. They strike a practical balance between interests which inevitably conflict to some extent.
I would point out that we have reached a very late stage in the progress of this important Private Member's Bill. We are all anxious that the Bill should become law and it is clear that there can be no possibility of any further modifications passing backwards and forwards between the two Houses if this Bill is not to be lost. It is some time since these Amendments were put before us by the House of Lords. We have had three or four months of very full consultation in which the hon. Members who have been concerned with this Bill in this House and also those who have been concerned in another place have taken part. I am entitled to say to the House that I have some reason to think that the present proposals come as near to satisfying all those who have an interest in the matter as we are likely to get, and that they have a better chance than any other proposals I have seen of commanding general agreement. I ask all Members who are anxious to see the Bill on the Statute Book, and by that I mean all Members, to accept these Amendments.