» Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Adoption Law

Asked if the Prime Minister welcomed the interventions of the Archbishops of Canterbury and York into the debate about gay adoption laws, the PMOS replied that there was not much more to add from what he had said earlier in the week. This was a genuinely difficult issue. It was an issue on which there were sensitivities on both sides, but at the core of it we had to remember the children. Not just those in care now, but also the children who are still receiving aftercare, and in the case of the Catholic agencies this was rather a high number. This was because the Catholic agencies had tended to concentrate on those children who were most difficult to place and therefore there was a process of aftercare as well. There were real practical considerations that had to be taken into account as well as the conflicting principles that were at the heart of the issue. The Prime Minister was leading the process of trying to find a way through those conflicting pressures.

Asked again whether the Prime Minister welcomed the interventions of the Archbishops, the PMOS replied that the Prime Minister recognised that there were strong views on this issue on all sides and welcomed the fact that people were debating both the principles and the practicalities.

Put to him that he had gone further in his response by specifying the particular role that the Catholic agencies play, but that some of the Cabinet had let it be known that they were not too bothered about these agencies as they accounted for only a small percentage of adoption cases, the PMOS replied that he would not comment in any way on what Cabinet Ministers had or had not said privately or publicly. We needed to focus on the factual position and the factual impact on the children who were at the heart of this. It needed to be recognised that this was not just a debate about principle, but it was a debate about how to help very vulnerable children.

Asked if the Prime Minister thought that some people underestimated the contribution of Catholic adoption agencies, the PMOS replied that he would not be giving a running commentary. But we did need to focus on the real practical outcomes of policy. No matter what the decision was on the principle, we had to bear in mind the outcome in terms of policy on children as well.

Asked if the Prime Minster had been warned that Ministers might resign their jobs if he were to go ahead with this, and secondly asked about the story in the Independent regarding the Prime Minister’s wife’s views on this issue, the PMOS replied that this was a genuinely difficult subject. At the heart of the issue there were conflicting principals and reducing it to that level demeaned the seriousness of the subject. He added that he was not aware of any such threats from Ministers to resign over this issue.

Asked that when it came to giving respect to recognising the sensitivities of religious groups, did this encompass all and any religious group, or were some more equal then others, the PMOS replied that all the way through this discussion he had pointed to the sensitivities and concerns from all sides of this debate. These kinds of issues were better debated in practice rather than abstract. What we had to bear in mind in practice was that at the heart of the debate were decisions about the future of children and how best to help those children. Many of these were some of the most vulnerable children in our society. This was a real practical debate, not an abstract one.

Asked if there had to be parliamentary approval on any legislation, the PMOS replied that he was not sure, but we should reach the decision and then decide the process.

Asked if he could confirm that the Prime Minister was meeting a small number of backbench Labour MPs later today to discuss this issue, the PMOS replied that without providing a running commentary the Prime Minister was consulting people on this issue and was trying to find a practical way through.

Asked if the good work done by Catholic adoption agencies mentioned in a previous answer was surely not an argument for the practical improvement of the State’s provision, the PMOS replied that in this area, as in other areas, voluntary groups did play a very valuable role. They had also developed expertise in particular areas, talking wider than just the Catholic agencies. It was important that we supported that expertise. Uniform provision was not always the best answer.

Asked was this not a good argument for a transitional period so that this expertise could be brought into the State system, and did this mean that he was arguing that variety of provision should remain, the PMOS replied that he was not going to get into speculation about what a particular answer could be, even if the question had almost been delivered in a Gibbon like way, although not quite deserving of the full Gibbonesque approval rating.

Asked how long it would be before the Prime Minister would make a decision on this, the PMOS replied that the horse and the cart needed to be in the right order first. The Prime Minister was working hard on this and was focused on this issue. We needed to get to a point where at least the best available solution was identified before discussing timeframes, not the other way round.

Briefing took place at 9:00 | Search for related news

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