|Adoption and Children Bill
Jacqui Smith: I share many of the hon. Gentleman's sentiments, particularly regarding the good-natured way in which the Committee has carried out its deliberations. I thank you, Mrs. Roe, and Mr. Stevenson, and also Mr. Hood for his cameo appearance. I should also like to thank my hon. Friend the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Hinchliffe) for chairing the Special Standing Committee sittings.
I want to put on record my thanks to the Clerks and Hansard reporters for their hard work in supporting the Committee. I also thank my radiant ministerial colleague, the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department as well as my equally radiant hon. Friends the Members for Poplar and Canning Town (Jim Fitzpatrick) and for Basildon (Angela Smith) for their sterling work on the Bill. Of course, I want to thank all members of the Committee for the considerable experience that they brought to the Committee. It is not always easy for a Minister when so many members of a Committee have so much experience. In this case, hon. Members put their experience to extremely good use and the legislation will be the better for their representations both during Committee sittings and behind the scenes.
I thank Opposition Members, not only the Front Benches, who have hardly ever been churlish and mischievous, and I particularly thank the hon. Member for North-West Norfolk (Mr. Bellingham) for the great good sense that he displayed in his last two contributions this evening. It may not be the done thing to thank officials, but I want to mention the support that they have provided.
The Committee may like to know that James Paton, who appeared before the Special Standing Committee, has been in hospital since Christmas, but is now out and recovering. I am sure that all members of the Committee would want to pass on their best wishes.
Ms Winterton: And my officials.
Jacqui Smith: Ably prompted by my hon. Friend, I also want to put on record the support of officials across government, particularly from the Lord Chancellor's Department. As the hon. Member for East Worthing and Shoreham pointed out, the Special
Column Number: 934Standing Committee gave us the opportunity to consider the Bill in greater detail and to receive information from stakeholders more effectively than would have been possible without it. The hon. Gentleman is right to thank the stakeholders and lobby groups for their commitment.
Finally, we can be proud that we are sending on its way a Bill that will put the welfare of children at the heart of the adoption system, cut out delays, place a clearer duty on local authorities to provide adoption support services, give adopters a better deal, provide new rights to be reviewed after assessment, introduce special guardianship orders that will legally underpin the adoption register, and address the concerns expressed by members of the Committee.
We said at the outset that we were engaging in a ''once in a generation'' opportunity to modernise adoption legislation and I want to thank all those who have been involved in ensuring that the Committee stage has been particularly constructive and has made the legislation as good as possible.
Sandra Gidley: Without hesitation, deviation or too much repetition, I associate myself with the comments made by the hon. Member for East Worthing and Shoreham. I recently read Giles Brandreth's diaries, in which he said that he went to the Whips and told them that he was an expert on culture, media and sport—so they promptly assigned him to the Transport Bill. I am delighted that no party has taken that approach on this Bill.
I have found very useful the experience of Government Members, which has brought us down to earth on several occasions. I have also very much enjoyed the anecdotal contributions from the hon. Member for Canterbury. Indeed, I am sorry that they have not been mentioned so far, as they brought a human touch to the proceedings.
The Chairman: On behalf of Mr. Stevenson, Mr. Hood and myself, I thank hon. Members for their kind comments. It is always a pleasure to chair a Committee that can debate important issues with good humour.
Question put and agreed to.
Bill, as amended, to be reported.
Committee rose at two minutes past Five o'clock.
The following Members attended the Committee:
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