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Clause 41 — Child to live with adopters before application

Part of Orders of the Day — Adoption and Children Bill — [2nd Allotted Day] – in the House of Commons at 5:45 pm on 16th May 2002.

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Photo of Jacqui Smith Jacqui Smith Minister of State, Department of Health 5:45 pm, 16th May 2002

No.

Amendments Nos. 148 to 158 and new clause 13 would effect what hon. Members want in a way that is legally sensible and confines the definition of a couple to the Bill. The amendment that Dr. Harris tabled would not achieve that. Clauses 47 and 48 define who is eligible to adopt. Amendments Nos. 148 to 155 would make the necessary changes, and amendment No. 158 would define a couple. I therefore hope that the hon. Member for Oxford, West and Abingdon will withdraw the amendment. It would not achieve his intention but create considerable difficulties if hon. Members wanted to accept joint adoption by unmarried couples.

As many hon. Members have said, the amendments would widen the pool of potential adoptive parents so that more vulnerable children have the chance of family life that adoption can bring. Evidence shows that there is a potential supply of couples who are willing to adopt. British Agencies for Adoption and Fostering has evidence showing 41 per cent. of unmarried couples expressing an interest in adopting jointly. However, as other hon. Members have pointed out, only 5 per cent. of adoptions are currently not by married couples. That suggests that there may be a supply of adoptive parents out there.

As hon. Members have made clear, one of the key criteria for our decision must be whether we believe that we can increase opportunities for children to be adopted into stable and secure families. There appears to be evidence that we could widen the pool of potential adopters.