Controversial bills on asylum and adoption finally reached the
statute book last week, after months of debate.
The Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Bill became law after MPs
overturned a vote in the House of Lords against the government’s
plans to educate asylum seeker children outside of mainstream
schools, and house asylum seekers in large-scale accommodation
centres in rural areas.
However, in a final concession, home secretary David Blunkett
agreed that an independent monitor could assess whether or not the
planned asylum seeker accommodation centres were in the right
A further concession will allow asylum seekers to leave the
accommodation centres after six months if their applications have
not been processed.
Meanwhile, the first adoption legislation in 26 years was given
royal assent after the House of Lords finally gave way on the issue
of unmarried and same-sex adoptions.
An amendment to the Adoption and Children Bill allowing unmarried
couples, including same-sex couples, to adopt children was passed
by a narrow majority in the House of Lords, paving the way for the
bill to become law.
Parts of the new act on adoption support and inter-country adoption
will be enacted next year, with the remaining elements of the
legislation due to come into effect during 2004.
Other measures in the bill include new rights for birth parents to
be able to trace their adopted children dating back to 1945.
Health minister Jacqui Smith said the act would underpin the
government’s drive to speed up the adoption process and deliver its
target for a “40 per cent increase, and if possible a 50 per cent
increase”in the number of looked-after children who were
She added that it would be of “lasting significance to thousands of
children and their new families”.
Predicting that the act would shape the face of adoption in the
future, a spokesperson for Baaf Adoption and Fostering said: “The
new act will be a major step forward in the development of an
adoption service which puts the needs of children first.”