New clause 15 - Powers of the Secretary of State

Part of Adoption and Children Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 4:45 pm on 17 January 2002.

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Photo of Jacqui Smith Jacqui Smith Minister of State, Department of Health, Minister of State (Department of Health) 4:45, 17 January 2002

I hope that I can reassure the hon. Gentleman that his new clause is not necessary. The objective appears to be to ensure high standards in voluntary adoption agencies and local authorities. From April 2003, voluntary adoption agencies will be inspected and registered by the National Care Standards Commission and by the National Assembly in Wales under part 2 of the Care Standards Act 2000. Local authority adoption services will also be inspected by the NCSC from April 2003. The hon. Gentleman was right; they are currently inspected by the social services inspectorate.

Adoption is a mainstream social services function, and people have recourse to the complaints procedure, as amended under clause 111. Clause 14 provides default powers for the appropriate Minister if a local authority fails, without reasonable excuse, to comply with its duties. We have a comprehensive performance assessment system for social services.

The Care Standards Act 2000 also set up an independent children's rights director, who will have a national overview of the rights of children receiving services regulated by that commission. In the event of a serious failure by a local authority to comply with its duties, the Secretary of State may consider whether to use the default powers. I hope, therefore, that the hon. Gentleman considers the proposals put forward by the new clause to be unnecessary, and that we can all share the view that provisions are in place to ensure high standards.