My Lords, I thank everybody who has taken part in this brief discussion and thank the Minister for his response. I felt on occasions slightly as though I were sitting in an echo chamber and going round and round in circles. I appreciate that the ministerial response is written for him, but I still have genuine concerns about the fact that Her Majesty’s Government do not know, and have never known, the exact number of children—particularly harder-to-place children—who are waiting to be matched. We have never had a definitive figure; that is an abrogation of our duty. We have a duty to know who those children are, where they are, what sort of condition they are in, and to be able to track what is being done to help them find a match to transform their lives—for example, keeping sibling groups together, or helping a deaf or blind child to find a loving family who will understand how to respond to and look after their needs.
Despite the briefings that various organisations have provided, I decided to do my homework and have spoken directly to some of the people who provided the briefings, asking some awkward questions of what is behind the fine words. The answer is that, while much in the adoption sector is going well and has definitely improved over the last two decades—I take my hat off to various Governments for achieving that—we still do not know how many of these vulnerable children there are or exactly what is going on. I do not find that satisfactory.
I will not myself push this to a vote. If any other noble Lords wish to do so, that is up to them. I make it clear that, should it be put to a vote, I will abstain. My view is that this is a matter divorced from party politics; we have quite enough of that going on at the moment, including as we speak, with—to plagiarise Oscar Wilde—various members of the unspeakable classes in pursuit of the unachievable. But that is another matter. So I am not going to push this, but I hope that the Minister and his officials will read what I have said carefully; I hope that they will speak to various people in the sector to find out what is really going on, ask awkward questions rather than just listen to the answers one might hope to hear, and do everything possible to identify those vulnerable children. On that basis, I beg leave to withdraw my Motion.
Some Lords objected to the request for leave to withdraw the Motion, so it was not granted.
Ayes 217, Noes 132.