Clause 81 - Giving parental responsibility prior to adoption abroad

Part of Adoption and Children Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 10:30 am ar 11 Rhagfyr 2001.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Robert Walter Robert Walter Ceidwadwyr, North Dorset 10:30, 11 Rhagfyr 2001

I beg to move amendment No. 161, in page 44, line 27, leave out 'at all times'.

The clause is one of several that deal with intercountry adoption, a subject in which I have taken an interest for some years. Not only was I a Front-Bencher when the House debated the Children's Commissioner for Wales Act 2001, which legislation had some relevance to intercountry adoptions, but I have some personal experience of those who have—not without considerable heartache—gone through the procedure.

It is with such heartache in mind that I move the amendment. Clause 81(4) states:

''An application for an order under this section may not be made unless at all times during the preceding 10 weeks the child's home was with the applicant or, in the case of an application by a married couple, both of them.''

That phrasing is overly prescriptive and pedantic. I can see the basic idea behind the provision, which is that the child should know the prospective adopters and should have spent some 10 weeks in their home. The problem is the phrase ''at all times''. I have looked through the Hague convention and cannot find in it anything that is so prescriptive.

I put it to the Committee that if a legal challenge or contest were mounted, a clever lawyer might be able to scupper a perfectly legitimate adoption on the ground that, for example, the child had visited another relative during the qualifying period. We must at all times remember that some people's motives may not always be to further the best interests of the child and that they might seek to undermine an adoption procedure by arguing that, in the strict legal sense, the child had not ''at all times'' during those 10 weeks been with the applicant—or applicants: if the application is made by a married couple, the child should have been with ''both of them''. I foresee lawyers getting out notebooks and asking people whether they were together ''at all times'' with the child during the qualifying period.

The words ''at all times'' are superfluous to the basic thrust of the clause, which is headed ''Giving parental responsibility prior to adoption abroad''. The Committee should consider deleting those three little words because of the pain and grief they might cause to prospective adopters or to a child who feels that its

home has been with the applicant or applicants for the preceding 10 weeks only to be told that, in fact, it has not been with them ''at all times'' because it has been away for a couple of days.

The amendment is common sense. The clause is pedantic and overly prescriptive and the words ''at all times'' should be deleted.