Clause 10 - Review

Children and Adoption Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee at 11:45 am on 14 March 2006.

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

Photo of Tim Loughton Tim Loughton Shadow Minister (Children)

No amendments have been listed for debate under this clause, although amendment No. 43 to the clause was debated under clause 9.

I touched on the subject of review, and asked the Minister to elaborate on when a final order would be made to ban a country, and whether it would apply to people who had started the adoption process for a child in the then-to-be banned country. I also asked how quickly a decision to remove a country from the list would come into effect. Would someone who had started the adoption process and effectively had to suspend it, but who was prepared to carry on goodness knows how many years later, be able to continue, or would they have to go back to first base and start all over again?

We come back to the lack of detail in the Bill and the accompanying notes on the mechanics of how things should work. I hate to put the Minister on the spot again, given her condition this morning—she is performing bravely—but we need more information, and it was not provided in the other place.

Photo of Maria Eagle Maria Eagle Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Education and Skills) (Children and Families)

I shall do my best to deal with that. Clause 10 provides that the Secretary of State must keep restricted countries under review. If she determines that there is “no longer reason” to believe that the practices that resulted in the introduction of special restrictions are still taking place, she must cancel them. Before she does so, she must consult the National Assembly for Wales and the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety in Northern Ireland, as the special restrictions in question would have effect also in Wales and Northern Ireland.

The hon. Gentleman asked about the specific process, which is particularly important for those engaged in trying to adopt when special restrictions come into force. I shall try to answer him. We recognise that the introduction of special restrictions will be particularly unfortunate for prospective adopters who are in the process of adopting a child from a restricted country. However, we have to balance their distress and disappointment against whatever concerns led to the special safeguarding restrictions.

Special restrictions will not impact on cases that have passed a certain point. Although that might vary from country to country, we expect it to be when the prospective adopter has been matched with a child. When special restrictions are declared, cases that are beyond that point will continue—that is the intention—and all adoptions that have not reached that point will be stopped. However, we have made provisions for cases to be allowed to proceed if the prospective adopters can satisfy the Secretary of State that their case should be an exception. The process will allow people to make their point if they believe that their circumstances mean that the adoption that they were in the process of arranging should continue. The same arrangement was provided in the case of Cambodia, and we believe that a similar approach would be the most appropriate way of dealing with the situation whenever special restrictions have to be introduced.

The hon. Gentleman also asked how quickly a decision to remove a country from the restricted list would come into effect. There is no reason why it should not come into effect as soon as the other jurisdictions have been consulted, which should be extremely quick, or even instantaneous. I think that I have answered his questions and hope that he is content that the clause stand part.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 10 ordered to stand part of the Bill.