Amendments 100 and 103 will make important adjustments to the grounds on which a parent's consent to an adoption order can be dispensed with by the court.
Amendment 100 will amend section 33(2A). As amended at stage 2, subsection (2A) requires that, before a court can dispense with consent, not only must the welfare of the child require that the consent be dispensed with but either subsection (2B) or subsection (2C) must also apply. Amendment 100 will mean that, even where subsections (2B) and (2C) do not apply, the child's welfare alone will be enough to allow consent to be dispensed with. Amendment 100 is an important amendment as it widens the grounds on which consent can be dispensed with while still applying an appropriate test that respects the rights of the parents. The amendment will reduce the risk that the making of an adoption order will be delayed or will not take place at all because neither of the grounds at subsections (2B) and (2C) quite fits.
Amendment 103 will amend section 33(2B) so that, where a parent or guardian is unable to exercise parental responsibilities and rights—other than those regarding contact with the child—the
I move amendment 100.
I thank the minister for lodging the amendments in the group. As he will be aware from the representations that he received, including my own, much concern was expressed at stage 2 that the grounds for dispensing with parental rights and responsibilities had been excessively narrowed such that the bill made no requirement for a court to take into account the past history and conduct that had led to the child's current situation. The fear was that, in practice, that would mean an increase in the number of contested cases and a fall in the number of successful adoptions. Amendments 100 and 103 will rectify that situation and, therefore, will be widely welcomed.
I, too, raised these matters in the committee. The amendments go some way to correcting a flaw in the Executive amendments at stage 2 that would make it too easy for birth parents to reclaim a child who had already formed bonds with his new parents. I am grateful to the minister for amendments 100 and 103, which should be agreed to.
Obviously, it is much better if an adoption order can be made with the birth parents' consent, but it is important that we get the grounds right for dispensing with parental consent. Amendment 100 goes a long way to ensuring that, in the adoption process, absolute primacy is given to what is in the best interests of the child. I thank the Executive for lodging amendment 100 in particular.
Amendment 100 agreed to.
Amendment 103 moved—[Robert Brown]—and agreed to.