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Adoption and Children (Coronavirus) (Amendment) Regulations 2020: Commons debate

Commons rejects attempt to annul legislation

A debate was held in the House of Commons on Wednesday, 10 June 2020 on the Adoption and Children (Coronavirus) (Amendment) Regulations 2020.

The motion on Children and Young Families in the name of the Leader of the Opposition and others said:

"That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that the Adoption and Children (Coronavirus) (Amendment) Regulations 2020 (S.I., 2020, No. 445), dated 21 April 2020, a copy of which was laid before this House on 23 April 2020, be annulled."

This was the first parliamentary debate on the dismantling of the secondary legislation. The motion was rejected by 260 votes to 123.

Carolyne Willow, Director of Article 39, which is campaigning for the immediate abolition of 2020 Regulations, said:

"In the short time allotted to each speaker, the detail of what has been done to children's safeguards, and the risks this exposes them to, was laid bare. The knowledge and passion of MPs who formerly worked in children's social care was notable.

"It was deeply frustrating that the Children's Minister used so much of her speech to talk broadly about her department's policy and actions in the face of COVID-19. This was the opportunity for the Minister to give precise information about why her department considered the global pandemic warranted a behind-closed-doors review of all children's social care legislation, and why each of the safeguards had to be deleted or weakened. There was no such explanation. The repeated references to flexibilities, and the emphasis on primary legislation being untouched, is picking up where the government left off with the exemption clauses of 2016/17. That was when the Department for Education first sought to distinguish between core safeguarding duties, and other legal protections. It's a false distinction which shows a lack of understanding of the law and how children's social work has evolved since the 1940s.

"We always knew that the weight of the Commons favours the government, so any chance of reinstating children's safeguards required Members of Parliament to vote against their party. That didn't happen yesterday. Indeed, with the pandemic now making the voting process public, what we saw at times was an unedifying stream of grown adults, mostly white men, roaring 'no' into the microphone."

Article 39 has now formally commenced judicial review proceedings in relation to its campaign. Over 50 organisations and over 450 individuals have now indicated their support for the campaign.

For the Hansard record of the debate, click here. For more details of the Article 39 response to the debate, click here. For a House of Commons Library briefing on the issue, including responses from the sector, click here.