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Earl Howe: My Lords, this has been a very useful debate, and I am grateful to all noble Lords who have taken part. I thank the Minister for his detailed and thoughtful reply. I welcome the Minister's announcement of the new money for adoption support services, which will be enough to make a real difference. It excludes advocacy, which I had not appreciated, and it recognises the importance of adoption support for the success of this Bill.

To return to a straightforward issue, adoption support is in many ways the linchpin of the Bill. The noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, emphasised that point. If we are serious about increasing the number of adoptions and improving their success rate everyone agrees that we will need to provide effective help. Sometimes, as the Minister said, the necessary help will be quite simple; sometimes it will be complex. However, the essential requirement is that it be there for those who need it. All the major adoption organisations speak loudly and with one voice about this.

However, we should remember another thing about adopted children: their lives have been fundamentally altered by the intervention of the state. That intervention gives rise to an obligation on the state to ensure that an adoption has the best chance of success. Local authorities should not be permitted to cast adrift adopted children and their families. We heard about the various safety mechanisms that the Government have in train or in operation, but a simple way to stop that from happening is to accept my amendment. It will, of course, cost money to do this, but nothing like the amount required if we do not do it. The cost of maintaining a child in the care system, and later when on benefits or in prison, dwarfs any conceivable cost of adoption support services.

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I had wanted to be convinced by the Minister's reply that the £70 million is a bottom-up calculation based on anticipated numbers of adoptive families receiving support. The question behind that is whether the Government have made a calculation to underpin the decision to allocate £70 million rather than any other sum. The answer to that question is still not clear.

I do not propose to divide the House on this occasion. I intend to table one or perhaps more Written Questions before Third Reading to try to tease out a little more of the basis on which the announcement of new money has been made. Depending on the Answers to those Questions, I shall decide whether we should return to the matter at the final stage of the Bill. In the mean time, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

6 p.m.

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath moved Amendment No. 11:

    Page 5, line 25, leave out "Health Authority or Primary Care Trust" and insert "Primary Care Trust (in Wales, a Health Authority or Local Health Board)"

The noble Lord said: My Lords, in a sense this takes us back to our debates on the National Health Service Reform and Health Care Professions Act 2002. No doubt the noble Baroness, Lady Noakes, will wish to discuss what is a strategic health authority—or perhaps not.

These are technical amendments to the references in the Bill to health authorities. They are necessary as a result of the National Health Service Reform and Health Care Professions Act passed earlier this year. Clause 4(9) provides that if, during an assessment of a person's need for adoption, it appears to the local authority that there may be a need for the provision of services to that person by a health authority or a primary care trust, the local authority must notify that health authority or primary care trust. Clause 8(2)(d) provides that health authorities are exempt from the requirement to register as an adoption support agency in order to provide adoption support services.

The 2002 Act changed the name of English health authorities to strategic health authorities and provided for the National Assembly for Wales to establish local health boards to take the place of Welsh health authorities. The references in the Bill therefore need to be changed. It is intended that strategic health authorities will not have service provision functions. It is intended that primary care trusts will take the service provision role, while the strategic health authority will be involved in strategic planning and performance management. This means that they will not need to be included in Clauses 4 and 8.

In Wales, the establishment of local health boards and the transfer of functions from health authorities will not be completed until next year. As a result, we are amending the references to health authorities in Wales to say, "health authority or local health board". I beg to move.

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On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath moved Amendment No. 12:

    Page 5, line 29, leave out "Health Authority, Primary Care Trust" and insert "Primary Care Trust, Health Authority, Local Health Board"

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 8 [Adoption support agencies]:

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath moved Amendment No. 13:

    Page 7, line 24, leave out "Health Authority, Special Health Authority, Primary Care Trust" and insert "Special Health Authority, Primary Care Trust (in Wales, a Health Authority or Local Health Board)"

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 9 [General power to regulate adoption etc. agencies]:

Lord Astor of Hever moved Amendment No. 14:

    Page 7, line 41, at end insert ", or

( ) the actions to be taken by local authorities or voluntary adoption agencies where such bodies become aware of the death of an adopted person."

The noble Lord said: My Lords, the amendment would introduce into Clause 9 a provision for regulations requiring adoption agencies to take action in the event of the death of an adopted person. In Grand Committee the Minister explained that the Government are not inclined to prescribe such action as a duty. However, they are prepared to allow such responsibility to be dealt with flexibly. Flexibility is needed to prescribe, after due consultation with adoption stakeholders, the way in which adoption agencies should carry out this sensitive responsibility. I should be interested to learn whether the Minister now believes that it is appropriate to make explicit provision in Clause 9 for that purpose. As your Lordships heard the last time we debated the subject, it is important that arrangements are in place. I agree with the Minister that flexibility—which I believe I am suggesting in the amendment—would allow such arrangements to be appropriate to this delicate situation. I beg to move.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I am glad to acknowledge that the amendment provides for some flexibility that was not provided for in the earlier amendments. The issue was debated in Commons Standing Committee and in our Grand Committee. On both occasions, the Ministers responsible said that there was no difference in substance between us on the matter. The only question is how best to achieve the notification of the death of an adopted person to the birth parent in the appropriate circumstances, which covers issues such as what the appropriate circumstances are and what sensitivities have to be observed. We have taken account of the views of the stakeholders in considering our reaction.

There are problems with the issue, of which I think the noble Lord is aware. The intention behind the amendment is to provide for the birth family to be told

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about the death of the adopted person. It is not clear whether the intention is also to provide other information such as the circumstances of his death or the burial place. That could reveal the identity of the adopting family, which might not be particularly desirable.

The national adoption standards provide that the birth parents or the next of kin should, if they wish, be informed by the adoption agency of the adopted person's death where adoptive parents have agreed to inform the agency of the death of the adopted child. Again there is the issue of whether the adoptive parents have made that undertaking when the adoption took place. There is therefore the issue of the ability of the adoption agency or the local authority to make the notification of death.

Fortunately, we do not need to go into those difficulties in detail now, because the regulation-making powers in the first part of Clause 9 are very wide. They could be criticised for being so wide. I assure the House that they are sufficiently broad to enable us to put an appropriate requirement on adoption agencies through regulations in the existing powers in the clause. If we use the existing powers rather than providing an explicit additional power, we have the necessary flexibility to prescribe after consultation with the adoption stakeholders the way in which adoption agencies should carry out that sensitive duty. On that basis, I hope that the amendment will not be pressed.

Lord Astor of Hever: My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for his full reply. To answer his question, I was suggesting that the responsibility should be dealt with flexibly.

I accept the Minister's assurances. I also accept that we have lost the battle on the amendment. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Baroness Noakes moved Amendment No. 15:

    Page 8, line 6, at end insert—

"( ) Any statutory instrument containing regulations which deal with offences under subsection (3) is not to be made unless a draft of the instrument has been laid before, and approved by resolution of, each House of Parliament."

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I shall speak also to Amendment No. 68. Amendment No. 15 would add a new subsection to Clause 9 requiring the affirmative procedure to be used for regulations containing offences issued under that clause. Amendment No. 68 would do the same for regulations made under Clause 59.

As the Minister admitted a few moments ago, Clause 9 contains far-reaching regulation-making powers, covering a range of issues relating to adoption and adoption support. Those very wide powers can go into all sorts of areas, including fees charged, the management of the adoption agencies and extensive information provisions.

We discussed the regulations many times in Grand Committee. Members on all sides of the Committee regretted—if that is not too weak a word—the almost

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complete absence of detail on what would be included in the regulations. We are aware that consultation will take place before regulations are drafted and that much, if not all, of that consultation has yet to take place. Many of us were concerned not only about the lack of information on what the regulations would contain, but also about the timescale, which puts the implementation of the Bill—assuming it becomes law—into 2004 at the earliest.

I turn to the substance of the amendments. All of the Clause 9 regulations are subject only to the negative procedure, and the Select Committee on Delegated Powers found no fault with that. However, by virtue of subsection (3), the regulations can provide that a person contravening specified regulations is to be guilty of an offence and liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding level 5, which is currently set at £5,000.

The department sought to justify this to the Select Committee by saying that,

    "it is inappropriate to make a provision for offences relating to the breach of requirements included in secondary legislation on the face of the Bill".

One can easily understand that position. I have a problem, however, with the creation of offences without proper parliamentary scrutiny. If the offences have to be dealt with in secondary legislation rather than in the Bill, I believe that the affirmative procedure would be the best way of dealing with those regulations.

We still have no idea of the nature of offences likely to be dealt with in the regulations. We do not know whether they will cover 10 per cent of the regulations, 90 per cent or something in between. We do not know whether the offences will involve matters that strike at the heart of effective adoption or mere petty bureaucracy. As we have none of those answers, the right course is to establish a proper ability to scrutinise these regulations, when they are introduced, under the affirmative procedure. I beg to move.

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