HC Deb 24 May 1960 vol 624 cc218-9

3.36 p.m.

Mr. John Parker (Dagenham)

I beg to move,

That leave be given to bring in a Bill to amend the Adoption Act, 1958, so as to enable revocation orders to be issued, when so requested, in all cases where a child is legitimised and not only those under section twenty-six of the Act.

The passing of the Legitimacy Act last year has drawn attention to a gap in the Adoption Act, 1958, and I wish to obtain the leave of the House to introduce a short Bill to close that gap.

At present, the law is that if a father or mother alone adopts a child who is illegitimate and subsequently marries its other parent, the child can be legitimised because the adoption order can be revoked. But if the father and mother jointly adopt a child, the adoption order cannot be revoked if there is a subsequent marriage on the part of the parents and they seek to legitimise the child in that way. This seems an unfair discrimination against a small group of people who had hoped to benefit from the provisions of the Legitimacy Act, 1959.

Hon. Members will be aware that, under the Legitimacy Acts of 1926 and 1959, on the subsequent marriage of its parents the birth certificate of a child which indicates that the child is illegitimate is withdrawn, and a new certificate issued in which there is no mention of the fact that the child was born illegitimate. It means that prospective employers and the child himself—if he has not been so informed—need never know of his illegitimacy. This is a great advantage to many people from a family point of view.

As I have said, it happens that when one or other parent alone adopts a child the adoption order can be revoked, the birth certificate with the word "adopted" on it be withdrawn and an ordinary birth certificate be issued for the child. But in a case where both parents jointly have tried to reduce the disadvantages following from illegitimacy by adopting their own child before the 1959 Act came into force, that cannot be done, and the child must continue to have the word "adopted" an its birth certificate throughout life.

If a child has not been told of its illegitimacy in such circumstances it will wonder why it has been adopted, and become even more suspicious if it suspects that its adopted parents are its own natural parents. Thus, where parents jointly have the foresight to try to remove the disadvantage of illegitimacy so far as possible by adopting a child, that child cannot now be legitimised. Where they have not had that foresight the child is automatically, under the 1959 Act, made legitimate on the subsequent marriage of its parents.

This leads to an unfortunate discrimination against a small group of parents who have tried to do the best they could for their children. I ask the House, therefore, to give leave for the introduction of this small Bill, which is designed to remove that discrimination so that in any case where a child which could be subsequently legitimised by the marriage of its parents the adoption order can be revoked.

The Home Secretary was good enough, when I put a Question on the Order Paper, to express sympathy with this proposal and offered to assist it forward if a private Member introduced such a proposal.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill ordered to be brought in by Mr. Parker.