§ 1. Mr. Thurnham
To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what representations he has received from couples wishing to adopt orphans from Romania and other countries overseas; and if he will make a statement.
§ The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Mr. Jeremy Hanley)
Early in 1990, representations were made to the then Secretary of State, on behalf of two couples, expressing an interest in adopting a child from Romania. No other representations have been received by the Secretary of State. My hon. Friend will be aware of new and improved procedures in train for handling such cases, and Northern Ireland will be keeping in line with national policy and practice.
§ Mr. Thurnham
Will my hon. Friend acknowledge the excellent work done by United Kingdom volunteers in the Romanian orphanages? Will he do all that he can to help couples who wish to adopt a child from overseas, especially in view of the recent difficulties with the Romanian adoption committee's agreement, which effectively prevents more than a handful of Romania's 100,000 orphans from being adopted?
§ Mr. Hanley
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his interest in this important matter. I assure him that we also take the keenest interest in this. We are working hard with the Romanian authorities, although I am sure that my hon. Friend will realise that, with adoption from other countries, it is up to the countries concerned to deal with the way in which their nationals leave those countries. The Romanians set high standards of assessment of prospective adopters and the scope for change is somewhat limited. We are doing all that we can to help and I shall be grateful for any assistance that my hon. Friend can give.
§ Rev. Martin Smyth
While I welcome the raising of standards in Romania and the implications of that for Romania, is not it a fact that, in Northern Ireland, couples have been turned down because they were offered what in my judgment was an improper choice? They had either to opt out of the infertility clinic or go for the adoption of a child from Romania. Is not that an unfair choice, especially for those who have done an excellent job in helping such children?
§ Mr. Hanley
I understand what the hon. Gentleman says, but I am not aware of such a choice being presented to couples. I shall ask my noble Friend the Under-Secretary of State responsible for health and social services to look into that matter.
§ Sir James Kilfedder
Bearing in mind the magnificent response of the Ulster people to the tragic plight of the Romanian orphans, will the Minister let the House know whether the Department of Health in Northern Ireland has joined with the overseas adoption help line, which gives advice to those who wish to adopt Romanian children?
§ Mr. Hanley
Yes, my hon. Friend is absolutely right. There is an overseas adoption help line, which I believe was launched only last month by the Department of Health in London. I understand that it is becoming a bit of a habit to give out telephone numbers in the Chamber. Will my hon. Friend take on board the number 071 226 7666? If anyone who would like to adopt an inter-country child rings that number, he or she will get the very best advice.