New clause 15 - Powers of the Secretary of State

Part of Adoption and Children Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 4:45 pm ar 17 Ionawr 2002.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Tim Loughton Tim Loughton Shadow Spokesperson (Health) 4:45, 17 Ionawr 2002

On a point of order, Mrs. Roe. I would like to interrupt the love-in. We are approaching the end of the Bill, and I would like to initiate the credits, which are traditional at this stage.

On behalf of the Committee, I thank you, and your co-Chairmen, Mr. Stevenson and Mr. Hood, for their good services in guiding through a technical Bill without anyone falling asleep during the proceedings. I pay tribute to the Clerk, Tom Goldsmith, who went beyond the call of duty helping Committee members to table amendments: that was not easy at times, given the technicalities of the Bill. I thank the Hansard reporters for their understanding during the more

technical debates. I thank all the outside bodies and adoption agencies, which contributed to our deliberations with their technical expertise at the earlier witness sessions, in the dim and distant past when we first embarked on this enterprise. That underlines the usefulness of that exercise.

I speak for the Opposition and the spokesman for Plaid Cymru, the hon. Member for Meirionnydd Nant Conwy (Mr. Llwyd), who unfortunately cannot be here today but supported many of our amendments, in saying that our deliberations have been good humoured. We had two apologies from the Minister during this afternoon's sitting alone. This morning, true to form, the hon. Member for Lancaster and Wyre did not disappoint us. In mirroring his Second Reading contribution, he offered excellent contributions throughout the proceedings, though he slightly ruined it by blaming all the ills in the history of mankind on the Conservative party.

The Committee was entertained by the radiance and expertise of the Parliamentary Secretary, and the expertise and ubiquitous flowcharts of the Minister. All Committee members have shown a great amount of expertise and practical experience. Government Members fell over themselves to outbid each other on how many years experience they had as social workers. In the case of the hon. Member for Chatham and Aylesford (Mr. Shaw), that is measured not in blood, sweat and tears, but in the extent of his receding hairline through the years.

I am proud to say that we on the Conservative Benches have precisely zero hours of practical experience with social workers, which has done our speeches no harm. I pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Huntingdon, whose name we now know how to pronounce, who made some good contributions on his Committee debut.

The Committee was a classic example of where programming was unnecessary, because the Bill had cross-party support. In the programming that we have suffered, 43 clauses have been untouched, and 7 touched only partly. More than a third of the Bill, as well as two schedules, has not been debated in Committee. Nevertheless, we wave on its way a better Bill. The Minister has been amenable to many of our suggestions and she made a major U-turn on access to information, which we greatly welcome. The highlight of the Committee was probably the success of my hon. Friend the Member for North Dorset in amending clause 87 from ''British colonies'' to ''British overseas territories''. It may be too late for Gibraltar, if the Government sell it down the river, but that is a debate for another day.

We have covered many issues extensively. We have debated the sperm of members of the House of Lords; we have done a Cook's tour of other countries' adoption procedures; we have heard revelations about adopted people not knowing that they were adopted until their 70s or 80s; this morning we have heard the extraordinary paradox of accusations of right-wing political correctness; and we all now know how to pronounce the constituency of the hon. Member for Meirionnydd Nant Conwy, even if we do not know where it is. Unfortunately, he appears to

have welshed on the bottle of wine deal that he promised earlier.

We wave on a better Bill, and we welcome the two days on he Report to which we shall all contribute some time in the future.