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Lord Hunt of Kings Heath moved Amendments Nos. 117B to 117H:

    Page 111, line 1, leave out "Secretary of State" and insert "appropriate Minister"

    Page 111, line 4, leave out "Secretary of State" and insert "appropriate Minister"

    Page 111, line 7, leave out "Secretary of State" and insert "appropriate Minister"

    Page 111, line 9, leave out "Secretary of State" and insert "appropriate Minister"

    Page 111, line 10, leave out from first "the" to third "the" and insert "appropriate Minister is"

    Page 111, line 16, leave out sub-paragraph (2).

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Schedule 4, as amended, agreed to.

Schedule 5 [Repeals]:

[Amendment No. 118 not moved.]

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath moved Amendment No. 118A:

    Page 117, line 47, after "3" insert "3A"

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Schedule 5, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 135 [Orders, rules and regulations]:

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath moved Amendment No. 119:

    Page 79, line 17, leave out "the Assembly" and insert—

"(b) by the Assembly, unless made jointly by the Secretary of State and the Assembly"

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 135, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 136 [Rules of procedure]:

Baroness Noakes moved Amendment No. 120:

    Page 80, line 5, leave out from "that" to end of line 6 and insert "the person may attend and be heard"

The noble Baroness said: I believe that I have the privilege of leading the last debate of our Grand Committee. I am sure that we are all heartily thankful that the end is nigh. To that end, I shall try to be brief.

Amendment No. 120 seeks to amend Clause 136 in a small but important way. Clause 136 states that the rules of procedure must require notification of placement or adoption hearings to persons whose consent is required, essentially birth parents. However, this notice must say that the person need not attend unless the court requires it or the person wishes it.

The message given by that is that the parent is not an essential part of the process. It implies that the proceedings can perfectly well go ahead without them. Although that may be the right answer technically, it is not the right answer in human terms. Parents will doubtless be in an emotional state when they let their children be adopted and may well be ultra-sensitive to any suggestion that they are to be ignored by the process. Many may not be sophisticated enough to work out that the message that they may attend if they wish means what it says, and can take precedence over the message that they need not attend.

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The amendment requires a little more tact and understanding to be included in the notification of proceedings. Parents should be told that they may attend and be heard. Indeed, if we were not dealing with a legal notification, I should go further and say that they should be positively welcomed at the hearing. They should be encouraged to participate if they wish and at least see for themselves that the adoption process for their child is taking place in a fair and balanced way. Children's organisations support this approach, which adds humanity to dry legal process. I beg to move.

Baroness Andrews: In the spirit of the way that the noble Baroness has moved the amendment, I have abandoned my speaking notes and I shall speak very briefly. We are sympathetic to the intention behind the amendment. However, the old regulations under the 1976 Act set out that rules should provide for every person whose consent is required for an adoption or freeing order to be notified of a date and place and that, unless he wishes or the court requires, he need not attend. The letters which were sent out to parents were slightly more positive. I would not describe them as a positive invitation but a welcoming intention.

In the existing Adoption Rules 1984, Rule 23(1) builds on the primary legislation by stating that any person upon whom notice is required to be served under Rule 21 may attend and be heard on the question of whether an adoption order should be made. We are not aware of any difficulties being caused in practice but we see no reason why we should not consult on a similar proposal when we consult on the detailed court rules.

I am also aware that the amendment seeks to make explicit what is implicit. We intend to take it away between now and the Report stage and look at the

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implications of reflecting this in the Bill. This last amendment that we shall speak to on the Bill reflects what has been, certainly from my side of the Committee, a positive and enjoyable stage of deliberations.

Baroness Noakes: I heartily thank the noble Baroness for that response. It is exactly what I wanted to hear and is a very fitting note on which to end out debates in Grand Committee. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 136 agreed to.

Clauses 137 and 138 agreed to.

Clause 139 [General interpretation, etc.]:

[Amendments Nos. 121 to 123 not moved.]

Clause 139 agreed to.

Clause 140 [Devolution: Wales]:

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath moved Amendment No. 124:

    Page 84, line 2, at end insert—

"( ) In Schedule 1 to that Order, in the entry for the Adoption Act 1976, "9" is omitted.
( ) The functions exercisable by the Assembly under sections 9 and 9A of the Adoption Act 1976 (by virtue of paragraphs 3A and 4 of Schedule 4 to this Act) are to be treated for the purposes of section 44 of the Government of Wales Act 1998 (parliamentary procedures for subordinate legislation) as if made exercisable by the Assembly by an Order in Council under section 22 of that Act."

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 140, as amended, agreed to.

Remaining clauses and schedules agreed to.

Bill reported with amendments.

        The Committee adjourned at thirteen minutes before seven o'clock.

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