§ Tim Loughton
To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) how many representations he has received from hon. Members regarding amending the Adoption and Children Bill to extend rights of adoption to unmarried couples; 
(2) how many representations he has received from outside bodies and individuals regarding amending the Adoption and Children Bill to extend rights of adoption to unmarried couples; 467W
(3) what consultation is taking place by his Department on amending the Adoption and Children Bill to extend rights of adoption to unmarried couples; 
(4) when his Department will announce his policy on amending the Adoption and Children Bill to extend rights of adoption to unmarried couples; 
(5) what his assessment is of the number of unmarried couples who would apply to adopt children if the Adoption and Children Bill were amended to allow them to do so. 
§ Jacqui Smith
We are looking thoroughly at the many and complex issues of partnership registration, rights and responsibilities. Adoption will, alongside all other relevant issues, be considered as part of that work.
Under the existing Adoption Act 1976 single people may adopt (regardless of sexual orientation), but only married couples may adopt jointly. It is open for one unmarried partner to adopt a child and for the other to obtain parental responsibility by applying for a residence order in respect of the child. The Adoption and Children Bill makes no change in this area. However the Government recognises that it is an issue for debate. We have taken a consultative approach throughout the progress of this Bill, listening to the views of a wide range of interested parties through the Special Standing Committee. A number of amendments, supported by Members from all sides of the House have been tabled for Report stage. We are giving these amendments careful consideration and they will be debated at Report.
Since the introduction of the Adoption and Children Bill on 19 October 2001, the Department has received ten letters regarding adoption by unmarried couples from hon. Members and over 350 from outside bodies and private individuals. In addition there have been five previous Parliamentary Questions answered and two meetings between Ministers and hon. Members on this topic.
A MORI poll commissioned by BAAF in September 2001, "Attitudes to Adoption", found that 41 per cent. of cohabiting couples say they have considered or would consider adopting a child in the future, compared to 25 per cent. of married couples. A copy will be placed in the Library.