Amendment 86 is unnecessary. Not only does it reflect what happens at the moment, but the matter is already covered in guidance and the national standards, so there appears to be no need for it. Ministers have given the faith-based agencies clear assurances.
I seek guidance from the minister, because it seems to me that the amendment relates at least in part to a reserved matter. The question of whether an adoption agency can turn people away is a matter for anti-discrimination law. The Labour Government's legislation on discrimination in the provision of goods, services and facilities will cover any services that are bought on contract with public money and it will be effective from April next year. An affirmative instrument will be laid early next year. I ask the minister to comment on how amendment 86 would sit with that.
The amendment is illogical, discriminatory, or both. It states:
"Where an adoption agency decides not to assess a person as a prospective adopter ... it must refer that person" elsewhere. However, on what basis would an agency decide not to assess someone? On what basis would it refer the person on? Surely that assumes that some assessment has already taken place.
We know the reason for the amendment, because Mr McMahon was explicit about what he meant at stage 2: the Catholic adoption agencies want to be able to turn away gay couples and unmarried couples without properly assessing their ability to be good parents. An assessment will be performed, but it will be no more than an assessment of whether the couple are unmarried or gay. It will not assess whether the couple can provide a child with a loving family home. Current practice runs counter to the amendment, in that an assessment of sorts would have to be done.
In the end, referring prospective parents elsewhere is simply discrimination once removed. Would the Parliament support the amendment if it was targeted at Catholic couples, Muslim couples, black couples or women? It would not. Neither, then, should it pander to the discrimination against unmarried or gay couples.