Clause 135 - Short title

Adoption and Children Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 4:00 pm on 17 January 2002.

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Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Photo of Tim Loughton Tim Loughton Shadow Spokesperson (Health)

I gather that there have been occasions when the clause relating to the short title of a Bill has exercised the minds of members of a Committee for several hours. Given that the title of this Bill amounts to only four words, including the word ''Bill'', it would require greater parliamentary expertise than that available to me to spin out such a debate for longer than a few minutes. However, it occurred to me that during our proceedings in the past many weeks and on Second Reading before that, hon. Members have constantly been upbraided, not least by the hon. Member for Sheffield, Heeley (Ms Munn), because this Bill is not the Children's Bill, which we were trying to amend in 1989. We have often made the mistake of referring to this legislation as the Adoption and Children's Bill when it is the Adoption and Children Bill, which will become the Adoption and Children Act. Given that there is a possibility that the title of this legislation could be shortened to the Children Act, there is potential for confusion with the

Children Act 1989, which it is now too late to amend, in spite of the fact that many of us have slipped into misnaming it the Children's Act.

Therefore, it may be helpful to the many people who will come after us and refer to the excellent legislation that we are about to wave on its way through the parliamentary process, and to the many people who will seek to amend it, which may seem strange because we, or at least the Government, think that the legislation is near perfect, were we to admit defeat to the mistakes that we have maken—[Hon. Members: ''Maken?'']—that we have been making and to amend the Bill's short title to the Adoption and Children's Bill. Then there would be no source of confusion. That would make its title very different from that of the 1989 Act, we would have put the Committee's imprimatur on the Bill and what was previously regarded as the wrong usage would become the correct usage. I hope that that is a helpful suggestion.

Photo of Robert Walter Robert Walter Conservative, North Dorset

I shall speak exceedingly briefly. I hope that the Minister will reassure us that the Government will table an amendment to the clause on Report because its short title is the Adoption and Children Act 2001, but time has moved on.

Photo of Jacqui Smith Jacqui Smith Minister of State, Department of Health, Minister of State (Department of Health)

The hon. Member for East Worthing and Shoreham made an interesting contribution. I notice that he has not had the courage of his convictions to table an amendment. I am unsure whether, when people look back on our proceedings, they will commend us most on our discussion about changing the Bill's title. On that basis, I do not agree with the hon. Gentleman.

If the hon. Member for North Dorset is right, the change in date will be picked up automatically in the next print of the Bill. Presumably, the process is like the automatic ticking over of a—

Photo of Jacqui Smith Jacqui Smith Minister of State, Department of Health, Minister of State (Department of Health)

Thank you. That happens automatically as part of the parliamentary process, but I assure the hon. Member for North Dorset that if I am wrong and it is necessary to put the matter before Parliament, we will do so. In the meantime, I urge the Committee to agree that the title of the Bill should be the Adoption and Children Bill, and hope that we will soon be able to celebrate it becoming the Adoption and Children Act.

Photo of Julian Brazier Julian Brazier Opposition Whip (Commons)

I hope that you will indulge me for a moment, Mrs. Roe, to make an observation on clause 135. There is currently much discussion about parliamentary reform, especially relating to what might happen in the other place. It is a curious anomaly, which struck me first when considering a different Bill, that each Bill that comes before a Committee of the House of Commons contains a clause that gives the Bill's short title. There is no corresponding clause that gives its long title. That means that, unlike in the other place, the long title may not be amended in the House of Commons.

I am certain that every member of the Committee understands the profound difference that that makes,

because the long title governs what can be debated in Committee and in the House. With future debates in mind, which I would be ruled out of order for referring to at any greater length now, it is worth while highlighting in this relatively uncontentious and interesting Bill that there might be scope for some change in that area.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 135 ordered to stand part of the Bill.