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Clause 14—(Application To Scotland)

Volume 466: debated on Friday 24 June 1949

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.

Amendment made: In page 7, line 42, after "child" insert:

"for references to 'compulsory school age' and to 'the Education Act, 1944' there shall be substituted references to 'school age' and to 'the Education (Scotland) Act, 1946.'"—[Mr. Nield.]

I beg to move, in page 8, line 16, at the end, to insert:

"and in subsection (2) after the word 'consent' where that word first occurs there shall be inserted 'except the consent of an infant'."
This Amendment deals with the Scottish position. It is to ensure that the consent of a minor child in Scotland is obtained at the time of the adoption proceedings.

Amendment agreed to.

Further Amendments made: In page 8, line 32, after "Registrar General," to insert "for Scotland."

In page 9, line 13, after "Registrar General," insert "for Scotland."

In page 9, In line 19, after "Registrar General," insert "for Scotland."

In page 9, In line 25, after "Registrar General," insert "for Scotland."—[ The Lord Advocate.]

I beg to move, in page 9, line 28, to leave out "and any extract of an entry," and to insert:

"(6) Where the Registrar General for Scotland is notified by the Registrar General that an adoption order has been made under the Adoption of Children Act, 1926, in respect of an infant to whom an entry in the Register of Births, Deaths and Marriages or the Adopted Children Register maintained by the Registrar General for Scotland relates, the Registrar General for Scotland shall cause the entry to be marked 'adopted (England and Wales)' or, as the case may be re-adopted (England and Wales)'; and where after an entry has been marked in pursuance of this subsection the Registrar General for Scotland is notified as aforesaid that the adoption order has been quashed, or that an appeal against the adoption order has been allowed, he shall cause the marking to be erased.
(7) An extract of an entry in the Register of Births, Deaths and Marriages or the Adopted Children Register maintained by the Registrar General for Scotland."
This is the counterpart Amendment to the one moved by my hon. Friend to Clause 11, page 6, line 21, and makes similar provisions for Scotland.

Amendment agreed to.

Further Amendment made: In line 30, leave out "in pursuance of such directions," and insert "under this section."—[ The Lord Advocate.]

I beg to move, in page 9, line 36, to leave out from the beginning to "by," in line 39.

The words to be excluded are reintroduced in fuller form by an Amendment in page 10, line 9.

Amendment agreed to.

Further Amendment made: In line 44, after "General," insert "for Scotland."—[ The Lord Advocate.]

I beg to move, in page 10, line 8, at the end, to insert:

"(8) In the case of an adoption order made before the commencement of this Act, the power of the court under the last foregoing subsection shall include power to amend the order—
  • (a) by the insertion of the country of the adopted person's birth;
  • (b) (where the order does not specify a precise date as the date of the adopted person's birth) by the insertion of the date which appears to the court to be the date or probable date of his birth;
  • and the provisions of that subsection shall have effect accordingly."
    By this Amendment the new subsection introduced in Clause 11, page 6, line 39, is similarly introduced into the Scottish Application Clause. The terms are exactly the same as the Amendment moved by my hon. Friend.

    Amendment agreed to.

    1.23 p.m.

    I beg to move "That the Bill be now read the Third time."

    I move this Motion with some degree of confidence, since to my great gratification I feel that the provisions of this Measure have attracted very general approval. There are four particular points which I think are publicly commended. The first is that provision which enables children resident in this country, but of foreign birth, to be made the subject of adoption orders and also citizens of the United Kingdom and the Colonies. Many instances were cited in the course of our discussions, and I recall in particular the case of refugee children from the Spanish civil war who came to this country. There are many cases of children of foreign birth living here who may well be embraced within families in this country.

    The second point that is particularly welcomed is the provision dealing with the probationary period of three months in every case immediately preceding the making of the order during which the child is to be in the care and possession of the applicant and under the supervision of the local welfare authority. I have in this connection been particularly anxious to seek to strike a balance between the need to protect the mother from a hasty parting with her child, and protecting the adopters from having the child removed after they have come to care for it. I am glad to say that we have not divided on this issue. The matter has been raised here today during the Report stage, and it may well be that the final and perfect arrangement has not yet been found. I am quite certain that when this Bill goes to another place that aspect will receive very careful thought.

    The third point was that provision which enables an adopted child to benefit equally with the natural child when the adopting parent dies intestate, and also enables the adopting parent to benefit if the child dies intestate. This Clause, as the House is aware, was added during the Committee stage following the hope I expressed when moving the Second Reading. Here again, as far as wills and settlements are concerned, I have no doubt that consideration will be given to the matter elsewhere.

    The fourth point arises out of those Clauses which seek to amend the law as to the form of birth certificate. Without going into any details, I hope sincerely that these provisions will be a further step forward in eradicating the stigma of illegitimacy. There was one Amendment which was not called, which shows that there are those who take the view that there is no such thing as an illegitimate child but only illegitimate parents.

    If this Bill goes to another place, I know that it will receive distinguished sponsorship and also very careful and sympathetic consideration. I do not doubt but that it will return to us in better form. In conclusion, may I express my thanks to all those who have helped in the progress of the Bill, to those hon. Members who have backed it and those who gave anxious thought to it in Committee, to the Under-Secretary who has been most helpful and to the officers of his Ministry, particularly of the Children's Department, and to the many others outside this House who have given wise counsel and advice?

    1.29 p.m.

    I think the whole House appreciates the work which the hon. and learned Member for Chester (Mr. Nield) has done in bringing this Bill forward. Although a small Bill, it is a Bill full of good things. I am sure he will look back on it, as very few private Members can, as an achievement in his Parliamentary career. I am particularly anxious to say this, because I have been responsible perhaps for the only contentious passages during the consideration of the Bill.

    I wish also to say that I appreciate the remarks which the hon. and learned Gentleman has just made in that respect. It is true that my hon. Friend and I decided not to divide on the issue, not because we did not feel very strongly about it, but because it is, after all, a complicated Amendment, with not very readily recognisable repercussions and to expect a considered judgment from people who have not been in the Chamber but would be called upon to troop into the Division Lobby, was really expecting too much. I am particularly glad however that the hon. and learned Gentleman volunteered himself that he would try to see whether our point could be met during the passage of the Bill through another place because there is no doubt that, as a point of principle, it is of fundamental importance.

    1.30 p.m.

    May I be permitted, as a member of the Curtis Committee, to express my great gratification at the passage of the Bill through the House so far, and to thank the hon. and learned Member for Chester (Mr. Nield) for promoting the Measure? It will I am sure, go a long way towards implementing the children's charter, and will result in a great deal of happiness to those concerned and clear up some of the anomalies which have hitherto existed on questions of adoption.

    1.31 p.m.

    I was not, unfortunately, a member of the Committee on this Bill, although I had something to do with some of the Amendments which were tabled to it, and I should like to associate myself, as one who has had life-long experience of these questions, with the congratulations which have been offered to the hon. and learned Member for Chester (Mr. Nield). Those fortunate enough to draw in the Ballot the right to bring forward a Private Member's Bill often find that their constituents have grandoise ideas about the type of thing which can be dealt with. This Bill is precisely an example of the kind of thing which can be dealt with, and also an example of the need to restore Private Members' time so that Members in all parties can associate in bringing forward Measures of social reform which are small but, nevertheless, of importance to particular sections of the community.

    The 1926 Act sprang from the Victorian conception of the inviolability of the family and the rights of motherhood, and was a charter of real importance. It had the widest possible aim, in particular in cases of illegitimate children where there was no hope of finding means of adequate upbringing except by adoption. I remember, in my years as a practising solicitor, tragic cases of people who cared for and brought up an adopted child for years only to be threatened by the parents of the child when it was approaching an age at which it could earn its own living. Such people were deprived of their right to the child and had no recourse to the courts. The 1926 Act has worked well, but has shown the need for Measures of reform such as this Bill, which has been admirably conducted throughout its proceedings by the hon. and learned Member for Chester. I am glad the Bill has reached its present stage.

    1.33 p.m.

    I should like to add my congratulations to my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Chester (Mr. Nield) on having succeeded in bringing to its present stage a piece of legislation which will cause much happiness to those who have been troubled for years in trying to administer Acts covering adoption. The Bill does not appear to be a major Measure, but my hon. and learned Friend can feel satisfaction in the knowledge that it will bring happiness to many people and will considerably help authorities who have to deal with adoption cases.

    I hope that if I add my congratulations to the hon. and learned Member for Chester (Mr. Nield) he will not feel entirely overwhelmed. On behalf of my right hon. Friend and the Home Office, which will be principally concerned with the operation of the Bill should it become law, I should like to say how much we appreciate the way in which the hon. and learned Member has conducted the Bill through the House with such admirable lucidity and expedition. I hope it will get a fair wind in another place.

    Question put, and agreed to.

    Bill read the Third time, and passed.