Adoption and Children Bill

Part of the debate – in a Public Bill Committee am 10:45 am ar 27 Tachwedd 2001.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Tim Loughton Tim Loughton Shadow Spokesperson (Health) 10:45, 27 Tachwedd 2001

The concerns were flagged up well before that, on Second Reading, when we had an inkling that the Government wanted to programme the whole matter to end in January.

We will then move to clauses 41 to 49, which deal with pre-adoption procedures, adoption orders and the thorny issue of whether adoption should be exclusively for married couples—I am sure that Government Members will have things to say about that if they are true to the comments that they were keen to make throughout last week's sittings. I note that none of them has yet put his head above the parapet to table amendments on the issue; we shall see whether that happens by Thursday.

We will then deal with definitions of legitimation. The relevant group comprises 10 clauses, but only two and a half hours have been allocated to debate them; that is only 15 minutes per clause, leaving aside all the amendments that have so far been tabled and all those that we eagerly await from Government Members.

Next, we will go on to clauses 94 to 99, 104 and 105, which deal with proceedings for offences resulting from the regulations and the important issue of how to avoid delay, which is one of the core principles in clause 1. That group comprises eight clauses, for which we have five hours of debating time—very generously, we get 37.5 minutes per clause.

After that, we will go on to clauses 63 to 73 and the status of adopted children, where we have been allocated 10.5 minutes per clause. That hardly seems enough time to do the clauses justice, particularly as they deal with the topical subject of the inheritances of Members of the House of Lords and adoptions. I am sure that the Minister will comment on that, given that the Government have proposed various changes to the operation of the House of Lords.

Then we will come to clauses 80 to 87, 120 and 123 on intercountry adoptions, covering the issues of Scotland and overseas territories. That group again comprises 10 clauses, for which just five hours have been allotted—half an hour per clause, leaving aside the amendments.

We will then move to clauses 2 to 16, dealing with adoption support, assessments, local authority plans, fees, the review mechanism, inspection and regulation. Clauses 115 to 119 deal with the use of the register, which leaves a lot to be desired—again, that is a very technical subject—and grants to local authorities. There are 21 clauses in that group, which means 28.5 minutes per clause, leaving aside the amendments.

We will then deal with an enormous hotchpotch of clauses, beginning with clauses 53 to 62, which deal with access to information. As we have said, the provisions are retrogressive compared with the 1976 Act—I am sure that all hon. Members will want to contribute to that debate, as many did during the earlier proceedings. Other clauses cover the information and counselling available to adopting parents at the time of placement, entries on the register and disclosure of records. The group comprises 16 clauses and two schedules, with less than 25 minutes to debate each item.

Finally, we will have just 415 minutes for the remaining 24 clauses—plus all the new clauses, of which two have already been tabled, all the new schedules and all the new amendments dealing with the Children Act 1989. On top of that, we have constantly to refer as our bible to the flow chart on page 73 of the explanatory notes, which explains the way in which adoption works. It is one of the most complicated flow charts ever devised, requiring many hot towels and sessions in dark rooms to interpret effectively. We will doubtless refer back to it on many occasions, to follow the Minister's detailed explanation of how the Bill flows—if it begins to seem that the flow has been thwarted at any point.

This is not an easy Bill. It is not minor legislation. It is highly technical and contains several contentious areas dealing with matters of principle. Throughout it are clauses that require expert legal input. However, the Government have rushed it through in a matter of weeks, having produced the revised version on 19 October. Less than a week after detailed witness statements, which raised interesting, important and new points, we are debating this Bill. Our time has been heavily curtailed and we have to produce findings by 17 January. We must get this right; implementation of the Bill must not take eight years. In the interests of expediting debate, we will not, despite our objections to the timetables, oppose the motion.