Section 16 — Home visits

Adoption and Children (Scotland) Bill: Stage 3 – in the Scottish Parliament at 10:45 am on 7th December 2006.

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Photo of Trish Godman Trish Godman Labour 10:45 am, 7th December 2006

I am using my power under rule 9.8.4A of the standing orders to extend the debate by a further 10 minutes. The debate on group 5 must be concluded by 1 hour and 35 minutes after the time that proceedings began.

Group 5 is on the location of the residence of applicants to adopt. Amendment 87, in the name of the minister, is grouped with amendment 88.

Photo of Robert Brown Robert Brown Liberal Democrat

Amendment 87 relates to adoption under Scots law when the applicant does not have a home in Scotland. Under the Adoption (Scotland) Act 1978, people who are domiciled in Scotland but who are living in another country are eligible to adopt under Scots law; however, the act is silent on which local authority should be given notice of an application by the prospective adopter and which local authority must see the child in the home of the prospective adopter.

At stage 2, Lord James Douglas-Hamilton lodged an amendment to specify that the relevant local authority would be the one that was chosen by the applicant and approved by a court. He withdrew the amendment, however, after I assured him that we would address the matter at stage 3. It was an absolutely valid point that he raised. It seems to me that it is not necessary to require a court to approve the local authority. That would be overly bureaucratic and would require overseas applicants to face additional, unnecessary hurdles that Scottish-based applicants are not required to face.

Amendment 87 places the duty on the local authority in whose area the applicant has a home. If the applicant does not have a home in Scotland, it places the duty on the local authority that the applicant has notified. I think that that is a reasonable solution. When the applicant does not have a home in Scotland, it is probable that they will choose a local authority with which they have some connection—perhaps where they lived last or where the child lived in Scotland. I do not think that the approach will result in certain local authorities being deluged by such notifications, as this type of case is very rare. More than that, the consistent approach to the assessment of prospective adopters throughout Scotland should mean that no particular advantage would be gained by notifying one local authority rather than another.

This is a small part of the bill dealing with a situation that will not arise very often; nevertheless, it is important that we get the provisions right. It is a child protection issue, and we should not allow technical issues to prevent adoption by persons overseas under the supportive structure of Scots law that the bill would put in place. I ask members to support amendment 87, and I pay tribute to Lord James Douglas-Hamilton for raising the issue in the first instance.

I move amendment 87.

Photo of Lord James Selkirk Lord James Selkirk Conservative

I will be brief. I thank the minister for these amendments, which emphasise the fact that adoption by people who live overseas will be readily achievable in practice, where that is appropriate. The amendments also put in place mechanisms to ensure home visits that are comparable to those that are received by prospective adopters who live in this country, which is a necessary safeguard.

Amendment 87 agreed to.