Clauses 9 and 10 ordered to stand part of the Bill. - Clause 11 - Fees

Part of Adoption and Children Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 11:00 am ar 18 Rhagfyr 2001.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Jonathan Djanogly Jonathan Djanogly Ceidwadwyr, Huntingdon 11:00, 18 Rhagfyr 2001

I fully endorse my hon. Friend's arguments. The Government's intention is clearly to introduce fairness into the charging structure, and no one has spoken against that today. However, it is important to appreciate the differences between voluntary organisations and local authorities.

Many local authorities have a more solid base and constitution and better forward funding than voluntary organisations and charities. The latter often have more brittle leadership; unlike local authorities, they are not uniform among themselves, and they often have different overheads structures and operate with various degrees of efficiency. One of the impacts of the clause may well be that voluntary organisations will have to put their house in order and improve their internal efficiency to achieve uniform charging structures. However, we would not want the provisions to be the cause of the destruction of the charitable part of the system.

Will the Minister consider carefully the charging structures, as my hon. Friend suggests? Will she consider other associated matters, such as the notification period for the new charges? If a new structure is to be put in place, voluntary organisations should have a long period in which to consider not only how to apply the charges, but what internal changes may be needed, before the changes come into effect.

Jacqui Smith: Opposition Members have made some interesting but slightly contradictory points. They seemed to be arguing both for capping the fees and for ensuring that inter-agency fees are sufficient to support the important work done by the adoption agencies. I shall go through the points raised.

The Adoption Forum might have suggested in its evidence that the Government should consider capping the cost of home studies for people from abroad who are looking to adopt. When we debated the intercountry provisions a week or two ago, I spelled out what regulations the Government intend to make on the types of cost that it would be appropriate to recoup in relation to intercountry adoption. I also made clear that a nationally set fee would not be appropriate, given that agencies' costs for making assessments for intercountry adoption will vary from case to case. It is important that individuals should know what can and cannot be charged for, and that they should know in advance what the costs are likely to be. It should be transparent that no profit is being made, and there should be a clear understanding about fees.