§ Mr. Jim Cunningham
To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) what plans he has to introduce best practice for adoption agencies across the UK; 
(2) what plans he has to reduce the costs to local authorities of placing children with other agencies for adoption; 
(3) what plans he has to amend adoption legislation in England and Wales. 
§ Mr. Hutton
The Government recently announced the `Quality Protects' initiative as part of their strategy for improving services for children looked after by local authorities. `Quality Protects' promotes better management and higher quality in the provision of children's services. So far as adoption is concerned, the programme tackles issues such as the avoidance of children drifting in the care system and also unacceptable delays in placing children for adoption. These issues were also among others addressed in the Local Authority Circular 'Adoption—Achieving the Right Balance', issued on 28 August, copies of which are available in the Library. Local authorities should be in no doubt about the Government's determination to support and monitor the 'Quality Protects' programme.
Through 'Quality Protects', the Government are working with local authorities to improve the management and cost effectiveness of adoption services. For example, greater co-operation among authorities and approved adoption agencies through the wider development of consortia is an effective means of reducing those occasions when a local authority is asked to meet the fees of another adoption agency to enable a child to be placed with a suitable adoptive parent recruited and approved by that agency.703W
The Government have no plans at present to introduce an adoption Bill for England and Wales. However, we shall do so as soon as parliamentary time allows. In the meantime we are confident that effective action to improve the management and use of adoption services can be taken within the present legislative framework.