The government intends to establish a national adoption register next year - even if it requires primary legislation to underpin it, health minister John Hutton told MPs.
He was speaking during consideration of committee and government amendments to the Care Standards Bill, when MPs from all parties expressed support for a Conservative amendment which would have made the new Care Standards Commission responsible for operating a national register.
Caroline Spelman, Conservative MP for Meriden, proposed a new clause to the Bill which would establish a register of people qualified to adopt, held by the commission, according to national criteria set by the health secretary.
It might use powers in section 7 of the Local Authority Social Services Act 1970 to issue statutory guidance to local authorities. However, the government was consulting on whether new legislation was required.
'If legislation is required to establish the register, we will include those proposals in the legislation that we plan for next year. However, it is desirable that we should go ahead now with the with the establishment of a national adoption register, and that is what we intend to do,' said Mr Hutton.
He said Mrs Spelman's proposal dealt only with local authority-approved adoptive parents, and it was unclear on how her prosed register would work in relation to adopters approved by voluntary agencies. Nor did it provide for inclusion on the register of children available for adoption - which would not help in matching prospective adopters with children.
'The other difficulty...is that the establishment of the commission will take about two years,' said Mr Hutton. No one wanted to hang around for that length of time before establishing the register.
'That is what we shall do. We believe that we can do that and operate the register using powers that we have. It is essentially an administrative arrangement. If we need to underpin it with primary legislation, we will do so next year,' pledged the minister.