Parliament: Private Member's Bill - Adoption law to be tighter

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TOUGHER RULES protecting children brought to Britain from abroad for adoption were backed by MPs yesterday and could be law by the end of the year.

Under the new legislation it will be an offence to bring a child into the country without the prior approval of the proper authorities and adoption agencies. It will also entitle adopted children to automatic British citizenship if one parent was British at the time the adoption was made.

Opening the second reading of his Adoption (Inter-country Aspects) Bill, Mark Oaten, the Liberal Democrat MP for Winchester, said the legislation would send a clear signal to those trying to avoid the rules that "bringing a child into this country in the back of a car, late at night into Margate, will result in prosecution".

The same standards should be applied to those seeking to adopt from abroad as at home, he said. "Regrettably there are estimated to be about 100 cases each year where people try to avoid the adoption procedures and bring children into the UK without being properly assessed to become adoptive parents."

Endorsing the Bill, John Hutton, a Health minister, said the Government recognised the need for legislation as the circumstances of adoption had changed considerably since the 1976 Adoption Act. "Inter- country adoption has been growing steadily in recent years, providing an option for people who cannot have children of their own or who wish to extend their existing families," he said. "It is the Government's view that the opportunity to adopt from overseas should continue to be facilitated."

For too long adoption had been seen as a "last resort", which was a "misconception", he said. "Adoption must be seen as a positive option for children ... for some children it provides a fresh start and possibly the only opportunity of experiencing family life."

David Chaytor, Labour MP for Bury North, said the Bill was "extremely timely" because the Kosovo crisis would "inevitably encourage more people in Western Europe, and the United Kingdom particularly, to take an interest in this issue out of a genuine humanitarian response to many, many thousands of individual personal tragedies".

Alan Duncan, a Tory health spokesman, said the Opposition welcomed the Bill. "This country does need a proper legislative framework for inter-country adoption and the sooner we get it the better."

The Bill was given an unopposed second reading.