Clause 82 - Restriction on taking children out

Part of Adoption and Children Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 10:45 am on 11 December 2001.

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Photo of Robert Walter Robert Walter Conservative, North Dorset 10:45, 11 December 2001

I beg to move, amendment No. 162, in page 44, line 38, leave out subsection 1(a).

Having spent last week at the Parliamentary Assembly of the Western European Union, I have drawn the short straw this morning in terms of moving amendments. I am perturbed by the provision that the amendment would delete—a restriction on taking children out. Clause 82(1) refers to:

''A child who—

(a) is a Commonwealth citizen, or

(b) is habitually resident in the United Kingdom,''.

My concern focuses on (a). I thought that in making the new law, particularly in the clauses on intercountry adoption, we were making law for the United Kingdom, not for passing foreigners. To include children who are Commonwealth citizens and who by definition are not habitually resident in the United Kingdom, we are making law for passing foreigners. Why specify a Commonwealth citizen? Why not say a citizen of the European Union or some other definition of passing foreigner?

I looked at the Hague convention and found nothing to say that the provision was one that we should be making. In fact, the provision seems to be contrary to article 14 of the convention, headed ''Procedural requirements in intercountry adoption'', which states:

''Persons habitually resident in a Contracting State, who wish to adopt a child habitually resident in another Contracting State, shall apply to the Central Authority in the State of their habitual residence.''

I thought that meant that the United Kingdom could not authorise the adoption of a child who was a citizen of another Commonwealth country or who was habitually resident in another Commonwealth country, unless by acting in contravention of the Hague convention. I do not imagine that it was the intention of the Minister or of those who drafted the Bill that we should contravene that convention.

The Bill contains a dog's breakfast of geographical restrictions; this is reflected in some of the Opposition amendments. It refers sometimes to ''the British Islands'', sometimes to England and Wales, sometimes to the United Kingdom—and sometimes I am confused about exactly what it means.