Clause 87 - Overseas determinations and orders

Adoption and Children Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 12:15 pm ar 11 Rhagfyr 2001.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Robert Walter Robert Walter Ceidwadwyr, North Dorset 12:15, 11 Rhagfyr 2001

I beg to move amendment No. 169, in page 47, line 28, leave out 'colony' and insert 'British Overseas Territory.'.

I fear that it is my turn again. The term ''colony'' seemed to be shouting out at me when I read clause 87. In British law, that term obviously goes back quite some time. We are still on the subject of definitions: perhaps we should get them right. If my understanding of procedures in the House is correct, British colonies have not been so named for some time; they have been renamed British overseas territories, and legislation before the House at the moment grants their citizens the right of abode in the United Kingdom.

This is a probing amendment. I am intrigued about why legislation in 2001 still uses the term ''colonies'' to describe what we have correctly renamed British overseas territories. It is a throwback to an earlier time. We do not refer to the Administration of those territories as our colonial Administration, and we are responsible only for their external relations, not their internal government. We should perhaps not continue to incorporate the term ''colony'' in new legislation. I shall be interested in the Minister's response.

Photo of Henry Bellingham Henry Bellingham Ceidwadwyr, North West Norfolk 12:30, 11 Rhagfyr 2001

My hon. Friend made an interesting point. The word ''colony'' has disappeared from the lexicon, and we have rightly moved on to use the term ''overseas territories''. My hon. Friend is right to note that a Bill before the House will give the

citizens of our few remaining overseas territories extra rights. I would like it to go further, and I hope that the Government will consider that.

Those issues are relevant to the clause, because the Government's thinking in it has not moved on sufficiently. Now is the logical time to ensure that overseas territories are properly represented in Parliament so that they can invoke legislation such as the Bill. We should move to the system that exists in countries such as France, whose former colonies are now overseas territories and part of la France—

Photo of Mr George Stevenson Mr George Stevenson Llafur, Stoke-on-Trent South

Order. I tried to catch the hon. Gentleman's eye, but failed to do so. I think that he knows what I am going to say. I would be most grateful if he stuck to the amendment.

Photo of Henry Bellingham Henry Bellingham Ceidwadwyr, North West Norfolk

My point is important. If overseas territories were represented in Parliament, they would be able—

Photo of Mr George Stevenson Mr George Stevenson Llafur, Stoke-on-Trent South

Order. Yes, but with the greatest respect, we are not debating whether overseas territories should be represented in the House. That should be debated elsewhere. I refer the hon. Gentleman back to the amendment.

Photo of Henry Bellingham Henry Bellingham Ceidwadwyr, North West Norfolk

I have great respect for your skills as a Chairman, Mr. Stevenson, and I shall endeavour to keep my remarks in order.

Goodness knows what the Government were thinking when they included the word ''colony'' in the Bill. It is a throwback to imperialist thinking, and I was under the impression that we had moved on. My hon. Friend the Member for North Dorset is right that the word sends entirely the wrong signals. It is not only clumsy drafting, but a basic mistake.

Conservative Members feel strongly about the issue because we feel strongly about our overseas territories, which we do not want to insult or patronise. We feel strongly that they have much to offer, particularly now that we are left with a hard core of such territories. Once, there were big questions about Hong Kong's future as a dependent territory and about whether part of it would remain with Britain ad infinitum or whether all of it would move back to China under the terms of the lease. However, that is history, and we are left with 14 overseas territories. To call them colonies, as the Bill does, is insulting. It is patronising and it sends completely the wrong signals. I urge the Minister to support the amendment.

Photo of Jacqui Smith Jacqui Smith Minister of State, Department of Health

The hon. Member for North Dorset has probed long and hard this morning, and he has finally hit the jackpot. Clause 87 allows for the recognition of a decision made by an authority in a country that has ratified the 1993 Hague convention or in the Channel Islands, the Isle of Man or any colony where it has the power to decide that an adoption order should be revoked or annulled. If an authority in one of the specified countries decides that a convention adoption should be either annulled or confirmed, that decision will have effect in England and Wales also. The hon. Gentleman's amendment seeks to replace the word ''colony'' with the phrase ''British Overseas

Territory''. He is right; the British Overseas Territories Bill is going through Parliament. We believe that the clause should be amended to take account of the terms used in that Bill. We shall consider what drafting change will be most appropriate and will table an amendment on Report.

Photo of Robert Walter Robert Walter Ceidwadwyr, North Dorset

I am lost for words. I am grateful for the Minister's assurance that, although my relatively straightforward wording is not immediately acceptable, a similar form of words will be introduced as a Government amendment on Report. On that basis, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

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

Photo of Henry Bellingham Henry Bellingham Ceidwadwyr, North West Norfolk

I have a couple of questions for the Minister. Subsection (2) states:

''If the authority makes a determination in the exercise of that power, the determination is to have effect for the purpose of effecting, confirming or terminating the adoption in question or, as the case may be, confirming its termination.''

I am not sure that that wording is as sharp as it could be—we considered tabling an amendment to make it more logical. Does the Minister agree that it does not flow very well, especially in the last line? Is it really necessary to repeat ''confirming its termination''? As she knows, I believe in trying to keep things simple, straightforward and logical. It could be that such wording is required in order to make sure that the law stands up. Will she comment on that?

Photo of Jacqui Smith Jacqui Smith Minister of State, Department of Health

The clause, as I have said, allows for the recognition of a decision made by an authority in a country that has ratified the 1993 Hague convention or in the Channel Islands, the Isle of Man or overseas territory where it has the power to decide that an adoption order should be revoked or annulled. Therefore, if an authority in one of the specified countries decides that a convention adoption should be annulled, that decision will have effect in England and Wales too, and the adoption order will not be recognised. The hon. Gentleman is concerned about the wording of subsection (2). The wording, as it stands, is legally necessary to confirm a termination as well as to confirm or terminate an order—two separate things are covered in that subsection. I hope that I have reassured him.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 87 ordered to stand part of the Bill.