Clause 92 - Excepted payments

Part of Adoption and Children Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 11:30 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) 11:30, 15 January 2002

There are two problems, which I addressed previously. First, there is no power for the Secretary of State to prescribe the level of excepted fees under clause 92. The hon. Gentleman has not proposed an amendment to alter that, so it remains the position. More significantly, to return to a point that we discussed at length in relation to earlier clauses, councils and voluntary adoption agencies are and will continue to be able to charge prospective overseas adopters a fee to cover expenses reasonably incurred.

For the reasons that I have spelled out, it is not appropriate for the fee to be set nationally; it is more appropriate for it to be set locally, because each agency's costs will be different and its fees should be able to reflect them. A nationally set fee would lead to some agencies receiving more than their costs while others did not cover their costs, which might discourage them from making the assessments.

I explained when we discussed transparency that it is important that fees are made clear to prospective adopters. In addition, we went through the redress that would be available to prospective adopters through the complaints procedure if they felt that an agency had breached the condition that it should not recover more than its costs. We have covered those points. The hon. Gentleman is trying to reopen a previous debate, rather than focusing on the clause, which does not include the power to do what he proposes, even if—in policy terms—it were considered to be appropriate. I do not think that it is, for the reasons that I have given.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 92 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 93 ordered to stand part of the Bill.