Clause 17 - Short title, commencement and extent

Part of Children and Adoption Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee at 11:30 am on 21 March 2006.

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Photo of Maria Eagle Maria Eagle Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Education and Skills) (Children and Families) 11:30, 21 March 2006

Would that it were easy for me to leap and accept the serious points that the hon. Gentleman makes. I have much sympathy with them. However, despite the fact that I applaud his efforts to bring clarity to the statute book by clearly differentiating the various Acts, that is not the primary purpose of the short title. I am not able to accept the amendment, but I am happy to explain why, which is the next best thing.

Parliamentary counsel have some influence on short titles. They have to consider subject matter and scope. The short title gives an interpretation of the scope of the Bill, as does the long title. The difficulty with the short title proposed by the hon. Gentleman is that it does not legally or accurately reflect the contents of the   Bill. As well as dealing with contact, it deals with family assistance orders, which may be made in any case with risk assessments, following the amendment made in the other place, and which may be ordered in proceedings other than contact proceedings. In addition, he seeks to add private fostering provisions to the Bill, which would further widen its scope. His suggested wording would not be an accurate description.

The hon. Gentleman’s description of inter-country adoption is not strictly accurate. He may be interested to know that parliamentary counsel deliberately avoided using that term because it is used in connection only with Hague convention proceedings. The Bill, of course, deals with countries other than those that are party to The Hague convention, so that phrase would not be appropriate; it would give the wrong idea of the Bill’s scope. Part 2 is therefore modelled on the terminology of the Adoption and Children Act 2002, which refers to adoption with a foreign element.

Although I have every sympathy with what the hon. Gentleman says, I can only tell him why I cannot accept the amendment. I assure him that the short title was carefully selected by parliamentary counsel in accordance with the usual parliamentary procedures and practices, so that it would be acceptable to the authorities of the House and do its job, which is to delineate the scope of the Bill. It may also have the slightly disadvantageous consequence of confusing us ordinary mortals further, in light of the long line of other Acts to which he referred. I hope that he will understand, even if he does not agree, why I cannot accept the amendment, and he may care to withdraw it.