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Adoption: Catholic Church

Volume 457: debated on Wednesday 7 March 2007

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills, pursuant to the statement of 21 February 2007, Official Report, column 131WH, in which the Minister referred to negotiations taking place between the Scottish Executive and Westminster, what discussions he has had on the question of exemption from the Sexual Orientation Regulations for Catholic voluntary adoption agencies in (a) Scotland and (b) England and Wales. (125003)

Departmental officials have attended a number of meetings at which this issue was discussed. In addition, I spoke at the meeting of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Adoption and Fostering on 1 November 2006, and at the Westminster Hall debate on “The Future of the Voluntary Adoption Sector” on 21 February 2007, where the issue of the Sexual Orientation Regulations was raised.

The Prime Minister announced on 29 January 2007 that there can be no exemption for faith-based adoption agencies from the Sexual Orientation Regulations. However, he made clear that, in the interests of children, there will be a transition period for existing adoption agencies until the end of 2008. The Prime Minister also announced that during this period there will be a statutory duty for these agencies to refer on to other agencies those whom, because of their sexual orientation, they are unwilling to assess as prospective adopters.

The Scottish Executive and Westminster continue to be in touch with one another about how the transition period will work in practice in Scotland. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Department for Communities and Local Government is responsible for taking forward the regulations underpinning the Equality Act 2006.