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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 5:00 pm on 16th May 2002.

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Photo of Andrew Lansley Andrew Lansley Conservative, South Cambridgeshire 5:00 pm, 16th May 2002

I shall make two points in that regard.

I am not sure that the hon. Gentleman has been listening to me carefully, as the essence of my argument is that, although I accept the case in respect of unmarried couples, we would create a whole new legal situation in relation to gay couples. It is not therefore directly comparable with the situation for unmarried couples, so we should not necessarily read across.

On the European convention on human rights, the case of Frette v. France gave effectively a margin of appreciation to the French Government not to allow a gay man to adopt. I think that that was wrong, and that it was probably incompatible with convention rights.

My amendment proposes that we do not create in UK legislation at this stage a possibility for there to be two legal mothers at the same time through gay adoption. I suspect that the European Court of Human Rights, were it to consider the matter, would allow at least that margin of appreciation, as we are not precluding gay adoption. Everyone has made that clear—gay adoption happens now. It was established in a case in Scotland, which points to exactly the situation in which gay adoption is most likely to happen.

In the Scottish case, which established the principle, a nurse who had substantial experience of dealing with a child who had severe disabilities was able to adopt that child. Circumstances therefore exist in which gay adoption happens, and in which it may be in the best interests of the child. As a consequence of that, circumstances exist in which the partner in that gay relationship may seek a joint residence order. A joint residence order may not be all that gay partners want in such a relationship, but it is sufficient for the time being, while we think carefully about the consequences of trying to establish the proposition that one can have two legal mothers or two legal fathers rather than what we have understood to be the case up to now—that we should have parents, which, in British law, implies a mother and a father.

For that reason, I shall vote for the amendment in the name of the hon. Member for Wakefield—I hope that my colleagues will follow me—but I hope that he will understand if, on Monday, I seek to amend it.