Clause 98 - Right of officers of the service to have

Part of Adoption and Children Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 6:00 pm ar 4 Rhagfyr 2001.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Tim Loughton Tim Loughton Shadow Spokesperson (Health) 6:00, 4 Rhagfyr 2001

I am glad to have caught your eye, Mr. Stevenson. I have a couple of queries about the clause—especially about subsection (2)—that were not covered by our earlier amendment. Subsection (2) appears to require the officer of the service to take a copy of adoption agency records, usually for social services files, in order to rely on such records as evidence. For all practical purposes, that is likely to lead to a mountain of additional paper, since the old guardian ad litem's report would usually be a concise distillation of a vast mass of paper contained in files and would be challenged only in a few specific areas. On crucial matters, original records will need to be consulted in any event, and to require the officer of the service to take copies on the off chance that they might need to be produced in proceedings would be profoundly wasteful, using a large number of trees that could otherwise be saved.

That practical concern brings me to the use of electronic evidence and records. In refuting my amendment to subsection (1), the Parliamentary Secretary referred to the adoption laws of 1984, which are still applied many years later. However, in 1984, the use of e-mail and electronic records was comparatively sparse. Is the Parliamentary Secretary satisfied that computer records are fully covered by the descriptions of evidence in the clauses? If not, the evidence will be full of gaps. Records are increasingly likely to be committed to electronic form in any case. Doubtless the Department is aware of the problem, but we would like to be reassured that it will not lead to problems in court.