Clause 83 - Overseas adoptions

Part of Adoption and Children Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 11:00 am ar 11 Rhagfyr 2001.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Jacqui Smith Jacqui Smith Minister of State, Department of Health 11:00, 11 Rhagfyr 2001

Clause 83 allows the Government to put in place arrangements for recognition in the United Kingdom of adoption orders made overseas. It permits the Secretary of State to make an order specifying the adoption orders to be recognised while protecting the status of those adopted in the past from countries on the old designated list. The clause also allows the Secretary of State to make regulations setting out the criteria that must be met by procedures in an overseas country if it is to be included in the list of overseas adoptions to be recognised. The clause allows us to review the list of countries whose adoption orders we recognise, and it allows us to protect the status of those adopted—[Interruption.] I can tell that I have the Committee's absolute attention and that, despite the sounding of the fire alarm, hon. Members are concentrating extremely hard. I shall plough on.

The clause allows us to protect the status of those adopted under the current designated list while we review which countries' orders we should recognise in future. It also allows the Secretary of State to set out in regulations the criteria that must be met by a country's system if it is to be included in the order.

Subsection (2), to which the amendment refers, clearly states that adoption orders can be recognised only when they have been made in respect of a child. The clause provides a definition of children that includes persons who were children when the adoption was applied for to ensure that overseas adoption orders can be recognised if proceedings were started prior to the age of 18 but the adoption order was not made until the child had reached 18.

The hon. Gentleman's concern that the provision might enable decisions to be made retrospectively is misplaced. Rather, the clause makes the recognition of

overseas adoption orders consistent with our practice on the making of domestic adoption orders. Clause 47(5) makes clear that in domestic adoptions

''References . . . to a child, in connection with any proceedings . . . for adoption . . . include a person who has attained the age of 18 years before the proceedings are concluded.''

That is because, although it is important to ensure that applications are made prior to the child reaching adulthood, the court's discretion to carry out checks and schedule hearings should not be fettered by the child's age, nor should a child's best interests be overruled simply because his or her 18th birthday arrives before the proceedings are concluded.

The hon. Gentleman wants to remove the existing definition of children to prevent heartache and difficulties. If the amendment were accepted, the general definition of children in clause 129, which recognises a child as a person who is under 18, would apply. That would remove our ability to recognise an overseas adoption order that was made after the child turned 18 where the application and proceedings had started before they reached that age. That would be inconsistent with current domestic arrangements and is, therefore, unlikely to be in the child's best interests. Not only is the amendment unnecessary, but it might be detrimental to children's interests. I hope, therefore, that the hon. Gentleman will withdraw it.