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4 Nov 2002 : Column 114—continued

Special Guardians

Lords amendment: No. 46, in page 63, line 29, at end insert—X(b) a birth parent;"

Jacqui Smith: I beg to move amendment (a) to the Lords amendment, in line 2, leave out Xbirth".

Amendment No. 46 was a Liberal Democrat amendment accepted by the Government on Third Reading in another place on the understanding that we would need to table a technical correction in the House of Commons. The effect of amendment No. 46 is to insert Xbirth parents" into the list in proposed new section 14F(2) of people whose needs for special guardianship support a local authority may—or, if the Secretary of State requires, must—assess on request. We have said previously that we could use the power in proposed new subsection (2)(c) to prescribe other people who may be assessed, which would be a means of including birth parents. We are, however, sympathetic to the suggestion that we should provide a signal in the legislation that we anticipate that birth parents are likely to be key recipients of special guardianship support services, which is why we agreed the amendment. However, the term Xbirth parent" is not one used in the Children Act , so we need to correct it to Xparent". The amendment will thereby achieve the intention behind amendment No. 46, as the term Xparent" will be given its natural meaning—the child's birth parents, or, in the case of adopted children under special guardianship orders, their adoptive parents. I hope that Members will recognise that that addresses the concerns underlying the original amendment and the need to make a technical correction to it.

In case this is the last time that I speak in the House on the Adoption and Children Bill—[Interruption.] As the hon. Member for Mid-Worcestershire (Mr. Luff) says from a sedentary position, I jolly well hope that it is. I want to put on record the honour that I feel at having served on this Bill. Members on both sides of the House have agreed that the Bill will make a difference to vulnerable children and to the adoption process.

I particularly want to place on the record my thanks to the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department, my hon. Friend the Member for Doncaster, Central (Ms Winterton), and the other members of the Committee, including the Whips and my

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Parliamentary Private Secretary, who have stayed with the Bill throughout its lengthy proceedings. To continue the love-in that started earlier, I record my appreciation of the good-natured way in which Opposition Members have approached the Bill, the commitment of the hon. Member for East Worthing and Shoreham (Tim Loughton) to scrutinising it and the hard work of the hon. Member for Romsey (Sandra Gidley), which I understand has resulted in her promotion. I also pay tribute to the commitment of the hon. Member for Oxford, West and Abingdon (Dr. Harris).

It has been an honour to work on this Bill, and I hope that this will be the last thing that I have to say about it, but the most important point is that it will, I hope, in years to come, make a difference to the opportunities for children in this country.

Amendment agreed to.

Lords amendment, as amended, agreed to.

Lords amendment No. 47 agreed to.

Lords amendments Nos. 48 and 49 disagreed to.

Amendment (a) in lieu of Lords amendment No. 49 agreed to.

Lords amendments Nos. 50 to 57 agreed to.

Lords amendment No. 58 and Government amendment (a) thereto agreed to.

Lords amendments Nos. 59 and 60 agreed to.

Lords amendment No. 61 and Government amendment (a) thereto agreed to.

Lords amendments Nos. 62 to 65 and 67 to 92 agreed to.

Lords amendment No. 93 and Government amendment (a) thereto agreed to.

Lords amendments Nos. 94 and 95 agreed to.

Lords amendment No. 96 and Government amendment (a) thereto agreed to.

Lords amendments Nos. 97 to 107 agreed to.


Motion made, and Question put forthwith, pursuant to Standing Order No. 118(6) (Standing Committees on Delegated Legislation),

Supreme Court Of England And Wales

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Question agreed to.


Food Supplements

9.59 pm

Mr. Gordon Marsden (Blackpool, South): I rise to present a petition of some 450 people in Blackpool who are supporters of Consumers for Health Choice. I am delighted to do so and give the petition my strong support. It reads as follows:

To lie upon the Table.

10 pm

Sue Doughty (Guildford): I rise on behalf of 112 petitioners from my constituency who are supporters of Consumers for Health Choice. The petition has my full support. It reads as follows:

To lie upon the Table.

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4 Nov 2002 : Column 117

Births, Deaths and Marriages Registration

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—[Mr. Woolas.]

10.1 pm

Mr. Chris Bryant (Rhondda): With all the votes, it feels as though we have run a marathon in the past few minutes.

I am told by one hon. Friend that I have won the award for the most obscurely named Adjournment debate this year, and the title does indeed conjure up images of Dickens' Circumlocution Office. The moments of birth, death and marriage are some of the most tender in people's lives, but they are also points at which the state touches people's lives, day in, day out. It is often forgotten that it is not only the civil registration of marriages that is governed by state legislation: all marriages in church and religious ceremonies are covered as well. It is worth bearing it in mind that, in 1999, 263,515 marriages took place in England and Wales, so the number of people touched every single year by parliamentary legislation is significant.

In a former world, there was a different dispensation: the Church provided for all hatching, matching and dispatching. The Church—as opposed to the state—started to intervene in marriage in 313, so it has been directly involved in such matters for a long time. In the former world, a fact of significant interest to the state when legislating on marriage in particular was that the vast majority of people remained resident in one place throughout their whole life, so the system that arose covering, for example, the publication of banns of marriage was eminently suitable for the villages of England, Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland in the 10th or 11th centuries, and remained suitable up until perhaps the mid-19th century. Since then, however, things have changed, and now many of our constituents may, throughout the course of their life, reside in 10, 15 or even 20 constituencies.

One of the most significant changes to have occurred in recent years is to marriage. The number of people who choose to get married not in church but in a civil service has grown dramatically.

Mr. Tom Harris (Glasgow, Cathcart): It might help to reinforce my hon. Friend's argument, with which I agree, for him to learn that only last week I was invited by my researcher, Mr. Donald Campbell, to act as his best man at his wedding next June on top of a mountain near Aviemore.

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