Clause 99 - Evidence of consent

Adoption and Children Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 6:15 pm ar 4 Rhagfyr 2001.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Photo of Tim Loughton Tim Loughton Shadow Spokesperson (Health)

Although we have tabled no formal amendments to the clause, I should like to comment briefly on it and ask one small question of the Minister. Subsection (2) allows for the possibility of proving to the contrary in the witnessing of documents. It seems curious that subsection (1) does not make similar provision in relation to the far more serious question of whether a person has given consent to such proceedings. Will the Minister deal with that apparent anomaly?

Photo of Rosie Winterton Rosie Winterton Parliamentary Secretary (Lord Chancellor's Department)

Perhaps I should first give some background to the clause. It provides that a document signifying consent, which, according to part I of the Bill, must be witnessed in accordance with rules, is admissible as evidence without further proof of the signature of the person who gave such consent. It also provides that, unless proved to the contrary, a document signifying any witnessed consent is presumed to be so witnessed, and to have been executed on the date and at the place specified in the document.

The provision is intended to ensure that people are not asked to attend court and give evidence about their consent where it has been provided in the standard form. The hon. Member for East Worthing and Shoreham will recognise that the provision is designed to minimise any distress to birth parents that attending court might cause. The provision is fairly standard and is in fact included in the Adoption Act 1976. According to the provision, people will not have to offer further proof of the document in question. However, I can perhaps reassure the hon. Gentleman by pointing out that the provision will not prevent such a person from attending court to say that they did not sign. It merely states that it is acceptable for such a person not to attend court and not to provide further proof of signature.

I hope that I have dealt with the hon. Gentleman's points, and I commend the clause to the Committee.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 99 ordered to stand part of the Bill.