Clause 113 - Restriction on advertisements etc.

Part of Adoption and Children Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 11:45 am ar 15 Ionawr 2002.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Tim Loughton Tim Loughton Shadow Spokesperson (Health) 11:45, 15 Ionawr 2002

We fully support the amendment that the Committee has just approved, and the Minister's reasons for placing restrictions on advertisements. My only concern is to ensure that the provisions are watertight. I appreciate how difficult it must be to marshal all the new electronic forms of communicating and placing advertisements, such as through the internet. We all know that people have used loopholes to do that. However, my interpretation of the clause and the Minister's comments on amendment No. 261 lead me to suspect that some perfectly legitimate ways of distributing information may fall foul of the provisions, although I appreciate that the Secretary of State is given fairly wide discretion to make amendments.

In the ''Challenge Aneka'' programme some years ago, Aneka Rice was challenged to smarten up a Romanian orphanage. I remember watching the programme. Aneka Rice, a BBC crew and all sorts of other people went out to Romania and came across this orphanage in the most appalling state, where children of all ages were housed in terrible conditions. Those people did a great job of trying to repair the accommodation.

I believe that the programme was one reason for the enormous flood of interest in adopting children from Romania. It had publicised the appalling conditions that many children suffer in such orphanages. Enough personal details were given about those children to identify them. Hand in hand with that was the assumption that people could help not only by donating money to the various charitable works being undertaken to improve conditions for those children but, implicitly, by offering to adopt. Because

of the lack of potential adopters in Romania and because the country was in a state—it was only a few years after the iron curtain came down—that programme implied that adoptive parents would be sought from outside Romania.

On my understanding, that programme could be thought to have distributed information to promote adoption and unwittingly, but possibly under the terms of the legislation, given information about children who could do with a better home and for whom adoptive parents could be found in the United Kingdom or elsewhere. It was a long time ago, but I believe that that was done without the obvious co-operation of a recognised adoption agency.

No one could say that there was anything malicious or underhand about the programme. Indeed, what it achieved was laudatory. Strictly speaking, however, a programme maker who sought to make a follow-up programme or an equivalent modern version of it could be prevented from doing so, which might be a bad thing. We do not want such examples as that programme to be caught by these otherwise necessary clauses.

On the same score, the Minister might like to say why Romanian adoptions have dried up since a moratorium was placed on them in July 2001. I gather that it has a lot to do with an extraordinary campaign by Emma Nicholson, a Member of the European Parliament who, on rather scant information, has brought to an end adoptions from Romania, although the state of childcare in that country leaves an awful lot to be desired. Many children still live in appalling conditions in orphanages, and adoption by supportive adoptive parents in the UK or elsewhere in the European Union where there is now a moratorium is greatly to be recommended.