The Children and Family Relationships Act 2015 (Commencement of Certain Provisions Order) 2016 (S.I. No. 12 of 2016) commenced the bulk of the Act with effect from 18 January 2016. That Commencement Order brought provisions of Parts 1, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 12 and 13 of the Act into operation. The Children and Family Relationships Act 2015 (Commencement) Order 2017 (S.I. No. 355 of 2017) commenced part of section 47(c) of the Act with effect from 31 July 2017 and the Children and Family Relationships Act 2015 (Commencement) (No. 2) Order 2017 (S.I. No. 474 of 2017) commenced provisions of the Act relating to adoption by civil partners and cohabiting couples with effect from 2 November 2017.
Part 10 of the Act, which amended the Passports Act 2008, was commenced by the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade on 1 July 2015.
Part 11 of the Act, which related to adoption, was not commenced and was repealed by section 2(2) of the Adoption (Amendment) Act 2017, which came into operation on 19 October 2017, as provided for by the Adoption (Amendment) Act 2017 (Commencement) Order 2017 (S.I. No. 443 of 2017). The provisions in Part 11 have been incorporated into the Adoption (Amendment) Act 2017, for which the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs is responsible.
Section 177 of the Act has not yet been commenced. Following adoption of the 34th Amendment to the Constitution and its subsequent legislative changes, my Department identified a lacuna in the Adoptive Leave Act 1995 that prevents male same-sex married couples from availing of adoptive leave and benefits. To address this lacuna, my Department has prepared draft legislative proposals that will amend the Adoptive Leave Act that will afford the same entitlements to adoptive leave and benefits to all couples who are married, co-habiting or who are in a civil partnership, irrespective of gender. In this context, I can confirm that the Government intends to amend the Children and Family Relationships Act 2015 to allow an adopting couple to determine which parent is entitled to take adoptive leave, based on the best interests of their family. These amendments were approved by Government on 6th November 2018 and will be included alongside legislative provisions to introduce a new paid parental leave scheme, which was announced as part of Budget 2019. While it is not possible to provide an exact time frame for the enactment of this legislation, I expect it will be progressed as quickly as is possible in 2019.
Parts 2 and 3 of the Children and Family Relationships Act 2015 provide for parentage through donor-assisted human reproduction (DAHR). The issue of the recognition of parentage for same-sex couples and their children is dealt with under Part 2 of the Act. The Minister for Health has responsibility for commencement of Parts 2 and 3 of the Act.
Other provisions of the Act which relate to DAHR have not yet been commenced as they are linked to Parts 2 and 3. The commencement of the provisions of the Act which are related to Parts 2 and 3 will be co-ordinated with the commencement of those Parts by the Minister for Health.
Part 9 of the Children and Family Relationships Act 2015 provides for a number of amendments to the Civil Registration Act 2004, all of which have yet to be commenced.
Certain sections in Part 9 of the Children and Family Relationships Act 2015 provide for the registration and re-registration of the birth of a donor-conceived child. The current position is that these sections need to be amended, to correct technical errors, and have yet to be commenced. These sections fall within the responsibility of the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection. I am advised that the Minister’s intention is to correct these technical errors by means of Committee Stage amendments to the Social Welfare, Pensions and Civil Registration Bill 2017.
In addition, these sections cannot be commenced until Parts 2 and 3 of the 2015 Act are brought into operation by the Minister for Health. The Children and Family Relationships (Amendment) Act 2018 was enacted on 24 July 2018. This Act was introduced to correct typographical and technical errors in the Children and Family Relationships Act 2015, which will facilitate the subsequent commencement of Parts 2 and 3 of the 2015 Act. There are important administrative and operational arrangements to be put in place to facilitate the implementation of Parts 2 and 3, including the establishment of the National Donor-Conceived Person Register and the appointment of authorised persons under the Act. It is the Minister for Health's intention that Parts 2 and 3 of the 2015 Act will be commenced as soon as possible.
Officials from my Department, the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection, the Department of Health and the General Register Office are working together to ensure that the appropriate legislative, regulatory and operational mechanisms are in place to allow for the earliest possible commencement of all of the relevant legislation that will allow for birth registration of donor-conceived children.
The commencement of the other sections of Part 9 of the 2015 Act (unrelated to birth registration of donor-conceived children) is dependent on provisions of the Civil Registration (Amendment) Act 2014 being commenced by the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection. These sections may be commenced separately and do not affect the bringing into force of the provisions on birth registration of donor-conceived children.