Clause 64 - Status conferred by adoption

Part of Adoption and Children Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 9:30 am ar 6 Rhagfyr 2001.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Rosie Winterton Rosie Winterton Parliamentary Secretary (Lord Chancellor's Department) 9:30, 6 Rhagfyr 2001

I thank the hon. Gentleman for the question, to which I understand that my hon. Friend the Minister will reply.

I understand the concern about the wording of the provisions and the idea that the Bill creates the fiction that the child was born to the adopters, almost airbrushing the birth parents out of the adopted child's life. Some people have understood the provision to imply almost that a child's emotional ties with his or her birth parents can be severed, along with legal ones. I assure all members of the Committee that the Government have no wish to cause distress either to birth parents or adopted children. The clause is essential to protect the rights of adopted children.

The hon. Member for North-West Norfolk has clearly put considerable effort into drafting his amendments to try to ensure that the relevant legal status remains, but they are defective. Although they would provide for a child to be regarded as a child of the marriage—as legitimate—the omission of the word ''born'' would mean that the child could not be regarded as the natural child of one or both parents. Being a natural child matters in legal terms, in respect of inheritance, parental rights and responsibilities. For example, being regarded as the natural child is the key to an adoptive child's right to inherit under intestacy law. That might be relevant to the point that the hon. Member for Meirionnydd Nant Conwy (Mr. Llwyd) made.

The Government undertook during evidence-taking sittings to re-examine the wording of the clause, to see whether we could improve on it. I assure hon. Members that we have tried to find an alternative but have so far been unsuccessful. The technical deficiencies in the amendments mean that we cannot accept them. We are quite prepared to continue to search for a more acceptable wording, but I am not very optimistic about the prospects of finding such wording. We must ensure that the adopted child is legally protected. I stress that our stance is not an attempt to offend birth parents. However, despite trying hard, we have not been able to arrive at a better wording.

I hope that, in view of our intention to continue to consider the matter, the hon. Member for North-West Norfolk will feel able to withdraw the amendment.