Clause 92 - Excepted payments

Part of Adoption and Children Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 11:15 am on 15 January 2002.

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Photo of Jacqui Smith Jacqui Smith Minister of State, Department of Health, Minister of State (Department of Health) 11:15, 15 January 2002

Once again, we repeat arguments about charges. I shall outline the point of clause 92 in excepting—making exceptions of—certain payments. The clause is necessary because of the strong restrictions that clause 91 rightly places on the taking of any steps involved in arranging adoption.

First, I shall respond to the point specifically made by the hon. Member for North Dorset. Under section 57 of the 1976 Act, adoption agencies can recover from adopters and prospective adopters expenses that they have reasonably incurred in connection with the adoption of a child. That applies to domestic and intercountry adoption but, in practice, adoption agencies do not recover expenses in cases of domestic adoption.

Under the Bill, as we discussed on clause 11, it is intended that local authorities will not be able to recover expenses arising from domestic adoptions. However, under clause 11(2) and (3), they will be able to charge for specific services in respect of intercountry

adoption. We talked at some length about the justification for that and—I quoted the Department's guidance on intercountry adoptions—for the fact that such charges can be made only to recover expenses, so there can be no element of profit. We mentioned the disadvantages of setting a national rate, which would mean that some agencies might be given more in fees than their expenses. In some areas, agencies might not cover their expenses, which would make them even more averse to dealing with the problems of intercountry adoptions. It could lead to longer queues. That covers the hon. Gentleman's point.

Clause 92 provides that payments may be allowed, and so excepted from clause 91, in certain circumstances. Subsection (1) allows any payment made under the Bill when it is enacted, or under the equivalent provisions in Scotland and Northern Ireland—the Adoption (Scotland) Act 1978 and the Adoption (Northern Ireland) Order 1987. That therefore allows the payment of adoption support allowances to an adoptive family—unless such a family was excepted under the clause, it might be prohibited by clause 91—and for the agency to use its discretion to charge for tracing individuals.

The other intention in clause 92 is to allow payments to be made for reasonable expenses. That includes legal and medical expenses in relation to an adoption, such as when expenses are incurred for applications and proposed applications to the court for adoption orders, applications for placement orders and applications for contact under clause 25. Clause 92 allows for payments to a local authority or registered adoption society for expenses incurred for arranging the adoption of a child whose country of origin is outside the UK. Such payments could be for preparation classes, medical reports, legal expenses, home study reports, schedule 2 reports and post-„adoption reports.

The clause also covers reasonably incurred travel and accommodation expenses when a child is taken out of the UK for adoption, as is permitted by clause 82(2). For example, a child's travel and accommodation costs would be excepted, as well as those of a person escorting the child. As I suggested, we are aware of some intra-family adoptions from the UK to the Indian sub-continent. When those comply with conditions set out under clause 82—hon. Members will remember that it is about the transfer of parental responsibility before a child leaves the country—we do not wish to penalise families for making such payments.