Clause 113 - Restriction on advertisements etc.

Part of Adoption and Children Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 11:30 am ar 15 Ionawr 2002.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Jacqui Smith Jacqui Smith Minister of State, Department of Health 11:30, 15 Ionawr 2002

I beg to move, amendment No. 261, in page 63, line 38, after '88(2)' insert—

'( ) a person other than an adoption agency is willing to receive a child handed over to him with a view to the child's adoption by him or another'.

We are, as I said earlier, moving on to a clause that covers not only restrictions on advertisements on the internet, but wider restrictions on advertising.

The new subsection provides that the restriction on advertising in clause 113 that I shall spell out will apply also to advertisements that indicate that someone other than an adoption agency is willing to receive a child handed over to him with a view to the adoption of that child by him or by another person. It seeks to ensure that there are adequate safeguards in place to protect vulnerable children. It is, as we have discussed, essential that the welfare and needs of children be safeguarded.

There are those who are prepared to engage in the buying and selling of children for adoption. Even if money does not change hands, nobody should be permitted to arrange private adoptions that are not

subject to the provisions, safeguards and quality standards that are applied to the processes of adoption that we have discussed. Only local authorities and registered adoption societies should make arrangements for adoption, and restrictions on advertising are an essential part of the Bill's safeguards to prevent the exploitation of children and protect their welfare.

Clause 113 restates, with amendments, section 58 of the Adoption Act 1976, which restricts the publication of advertisements indicating that persons other than adoption agencies are willing to make arrangements for the adoption of a child, and makes it an offence for parents or prospective adoptive parents to advertise their desire for adoption. There is a broad consensus on the necessity for the current restrictions on advertising, but clause 113 goes further. It is a UK-wide provision that imposes a new restriction on the distribution of such advertisements, on advertisements that a person is willing to remove a child from the UK for the purpose of adoption, and on the publication and distribution of information about how to make arrangements for the adoption of a child.

In addition, the clause also makes an explicit reference to the internet so that there cannot be any doubt that the Bill covers this new medium. The internet is providing agencies with a new and growing medium for reaching out to prospective adopters. That is appropriate, but it opens up the risk that some individuals will try to advertise illicit adoptions in this country. We do not want websites to advertise children for adoption in this country unless the advertisements are placed by adoption agencies.

Adoption agencies are increasingly and rightly looking to the broadcast media to help them recruit prospective adopters. A number of television programmes featuring children available for adoption have been transmitted in co-operation with adoption agencies. The example of the BBC shows how it is possible, when the advertisement is placed by an adoption agency, to ensure that children's interests are safeguarded.

The BBC has broadcast two programmes on adoption, both under the theme of ''A Family of My Own''. In January 2000 the programme featured single children and sibling groups available for adoption; more than 24,000 calls were received by the adoption agencies involved in the programme, and most of the children have since been placed for adoption. Another programme followed in April 2001, featuring successful adoptions. It featured adoptive families and told of their experiences and feelings about their adopted child.

Television and other media can be powerful tools for recruiting adopters, but such recruitment must involve an adoption agency to ensure that the welfare of any child is protected if, for example, a television programme advertises a helpline that gives personal details of a child to callers, or initiates an adoption agreement. The involvement of the adoption agency will ensure that there is no disclosure of confidential information and that the best interests of the children are maintained in the placing of what, in the BBC's case, was an appropriate and useful advertisement.

The provision places restrictions on advertising by third parties, permitting them to be placed only by or on behalf of an adoption agency. It does not prevent third parties from providing general information about adoption, promoting adoption as a positive option, or passing to prospective adopters interested in a particular child the contact details of the child's adoption agency. However, any attempt by a third party to pass on information about an individual child, including their contact details, would be caught by clause 88(2). Nothing in the clause prevents any organisation from spelling out the benefits of adoption, but there are, rightly, restrictions on the extent to which the arrangements for individual adoptions and information about individual children can be disclosed.

Subsection (4) provides for a penalty on conviction of up to three months in prison, or a fine up to level 5—currently set at £5,000—or both.

With the addition of amendment No. 261, clause 113 safeguards children's welfare through the careful imposition of restrictions on advertising while ensuring that the appropriate use of advertising for the recruitment of adopters is still possible.

Amendment agreed to.

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