» Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Adoption Agencies

Asked for further information on Angela Eagle’s meeting today, the PMOS replied that he was not going to comment on a private meeting. The important thing was that people recognised that there were serious issues that needed to be considered, as well as sensitivities on both sides. People had to think about the serious issues at the heart of this, not least, the future of children who were not only in care, but who were helped with after care by the Catholic agencies. The PMOS said that those children were amongst the most vulnerable in society.

Asked if it was our position that it would be a serious problem if the agencies did close, the PMOS replied that he was not going to get into speculation about hypotheticals or a decision that had not yet been taken. This had to be taken one step at a time, and the important thing was that we recognised that yes, this was a debate about principles, but it was also a debate about principles which also involved the future of children. Therefore, it was incumbent on everyone to take that with due seriousness.

Asked if the Prime Minister was any closer to making up his mind on the issue after the meetings he had had on it, the PMOS replied that the question was inviting him into a running commentary on the discussions, and he was not going to do that. The PMOS said again that this was a serious issue and there were genuine issues to be resolved, and the Prime Minister would work his way through those with colleagues to try and find a reasonable way forward.

Asked what were the other significant issues, apart from the future of children, and would the writ of this legislation run throughout the UK, as adoption in Scotland was different, the PMOS replied that people were as well aware as he was about the sensitivities and the concerns of both sides, and how a way through could be found. Above all, what had to be done was to not lose sight of the children at the heart of it all.

Asked if this was a subject that the Prime Minister and Ruth Kelly would resolve and then put to Cabinet, and was there a timescale to resolve it, the PMOS said that the Prime Minister would talk to colleagues, as people had evidence of today, before coming to a resolution. What was more important than giving speculative timescales was that we tried to reach a resolution and then announce it when the time was right.

Asked if that would be days or weeks, given the intensity with which the debate had been going on, the PMOS said that he was not disagreeing with the journalist’s description, nor was he disagreeing that this was an issue which would not be better sorted out as soon as possible. However, how long that would be was not determined at the moment.

Put that Archbishop Mario Conti had said that he was under the understanding that the Prime Minister had made a promise that there was be an exemption over adoption, and he was now accusing the Prime Minister of betraying that trust, the PMOS replied that in this situation, it was not in anyone’s interest to start commenting on those sorts of remarks. What was much better was they we focused on the substance of the issue.

Put that this appeared to have taken the Government by surprise, yet the issue had been around for months, and was the Archbishop’s letter the first indication that there was a serious issue to be dealt with, the PMOS replied that everyone knew that this was an issue that was being dealt with. Equally, just because people were aware of an issue did not make resolving it any easier. There were genuine dilemmas at the heart of this. The PMOS said that people could either get involved with surface issues, or we could recognise that there was a deeper issue here that had to be resolved. We would resolutely stay focused on the best way to resolve this.

Asked if it was still No10’s and the Government’s position that after this had all been resolved, April was still the date when the regulations would be augmented, the PMOS replied that he was not going to give a comment on any aspect of this until we were clear. It was better to make an announcement about the overall position in one fell swoop.

Put by Sky that that was a very specific non-answer, the PMOS said that the comment was a very good attempt to cajol him into giving an answer to the previous question, but he was not going to succeed.

Asked what Ruth Kelly’s position was, and was she trying to find a way forward, or was she someone who was actively taking part on one side or the other, the PMOS replied that everyone in the Cabinet wanted to find a way forward on this and the PMOS was not about to put people into camps. The PMOS continued that people could either play the game of process and trying to put people into camps, or instead, the serious issue could be addressed and recognise that there was a genuine dilemma and issue.

Asked again about Ruth Kelly, the PMOS replied that if people looked at the public comments of the Churches, or the comments of those on the other side of the argument, then they would see that there were issues in society at large, as this was not just an issue for one or two people. Rather, it was one for society at large, and therefore, it had to be taken with that due seriousness.

Asked if this was something that had been going on for months, or was it something that had just fallen on the Prime Minister’s desk in the last few days, the PMOS said that the question was trying to take him into process, and he was not going to go there. Everyone had been aware that this was a potential issue, and it had come to a head at this point.

Asked why the issue had come to a head now, the PMOS replied that there was always a point of decision reached.

Put that some Government Ministers had been putting themselves into camps, and was that helpful, the PMOS said that people were reflecting the debate within society, and that was natural. However, what we had to do was to try and find a way through, and that was what the Prime Minister would do.

Asked if the Prime Minister accepted, given the differences in opinions, that this was one of those issues that he had to make a judgement call on, and whatever decision he made, not everyone would be happy about it, the PMOS said that we would try and find a way through. What people would think was that there had been a reasonable attempt to try and resolve the different concerns on all sides. Above all, that it kept the interests of children at its heart.

Asked if this was matter for Cabinet tomorrow, the PMOS replied that it had to be taken step by step.

Briefing took place at 15:00 | Search for related news

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