Adoption and Children Bill

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Mr. Brazier: The Minister said that there are many complicated issues. Will she clarify the time frame for the review that she refers to? Is it about to start, or is it part of a long-term plan?

Jacqui Smith: It is not for me to set time frames for my ministerial colleagues. As I pointed out to the hon. Gentleman, Cabinet Office colleagues announced the review yesterday in a response to a parliamentary question. It is for them to determine the time frame for the consultation. The important point is that the exercise will include careful and detailed consideration of adoption by unmarried couples. It would be difficult and inappropriate to pre-empt the conclusions of the review.

For those reasons, and given my assurances about the seriousness with which the Government take the issues raised in evidence last week and by my hon. Friend's today, I hope that my hon. Friend will withdraw his amendment.

Mr. Shaw: This has been a good and constructive debate on one of the few issues about which there are clear divisions among hon. Members. I am grateful that my hon. Friend the Minister indicated that it will be an important component of the review that is to take place. She said that several complex legal issues would arise if we accepted the amendments. I am not in a position today to examine or comment on them as I would wish, but I hope that I will be able to meet her to discuss some of them in more detail between now and the Bill returning to the Floor of the House on Report.

Jacqui Smith indicated assent.

Mr. Shaw: I am reassured by the Minister nodding. I am pleased that the Government are not set against unmarried couples adopting children. Couples choose not to marry for a variety of reasons, including beliefs or circumstances that prevent them from doing so. However, if the adoption is appropriate for the child, it should go ahead, regardless of the reason why the couple have not married.

I am grateful for the contributions of my hon. Friends. I respect the position of the hon. Member for Canterbury, although I disagree with him fundamentally. If his assertion that my hon. Friend the Member for Stockport believes that unmarried couples should not adopt proves to be true, I will purchase a bottle of House of Commons champagne for him to give to a charity of his choice; I am clear about my hon. Friend's position. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment, but I want to return to the matter at a future stage.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 47 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 48 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 49

Adoption by one person

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

Tim Loughton: Before we move on to some of the final clauses, I wanted to clarify whether a single person, having attained the age of 21, should be allowed to—

It being Five o'clock, The Chairman proceeded, pursuant to Sessional Order D [28th June] and the Order of the Committee [27th November], to put forthwith the Question already proposed from the Chair.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 49 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 52 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Debate adjourned.—[Angela Smith.]

Adjourned accordingly at Five o'clock till Tuesday 4 December at half-past Ten o'clock.

The following Members attended the Committee:
Roe, Mrs. Marion (Chairman)
Bellingham, Mr.
Blackman, Liz
Brazier, Mr.
Brennan, Kevin
Dawson, Mr.
Djanogly, Mr.
Gidley, Sandra
Llwyd, Mr.
Loughton, Tim
Love, Mr.
Moran, Margaret
Shaw, Mr.
Smith, Angela
Smith, Jacqui
Walter, Mr.
Winterton, Ms Rosie

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Prepared 29 November 2001