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We have made the code of practice available throughout the Bill’s passage. The last version, a
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near-final draft, was placed in the House of Commons Library back in February. We will publish a final draft shortly, before the provisions are brought into force. However, the provisions will not be implemented until at least two months after the Bill receives Royal Assent.

Lords amendment agreed to.

Lords amendments Nos. 14 to 22 agreed to.

Clause 19

Controlled drugs: power to enter and inspect

Lords amendment: No. 23.

Caroline Flint: I beg to move, That this House agrees with the Lords in the said amendment.

Mr. Deputy Speaker: With this it will be convenient to consider Lords amendment No. 25.

Caroline Flint: The Government tabled Lords amendments Nos. 23 and 25 to meet concerns raised in the Grand Committee in the other place about the “authorised persons” who can enter and inspect an individual’s private home in relation to securing the safe, appropriate and effective management of controlled drugs.

Lords amendment No. 23 limits when an “authorised person” for the purposes of clause 19 can enter relevant premises which are or form part of a private dwelling. It ensures that an authorised person may enter such premises only if he or she is accompanied by a constable, or in such other circumstances as may be prescribed by regulations. Lords amendment No. 25 is purely consequential.

Lords amendment No. 23 contains a power to prescribe circumstances in regulations in which an authorised person will not need to be accompanied by a constable. That is simply to ensure that if, for example, a medical practitioner’s surgery is separate from his or her private dwelling but access has to be through the private dwelling—for instance, it may be on the ground floor of a block of flats with a shared hallway, in which case it will be a private space—it will be possible not to require the presence of a constable.

It will also be appropriate to use the power to exclude care homes from the requirement. While they can properly be classed as private dwellings because they are already inspected by the Commission for Social Care Inspection, it would seem illogical to require the presence of a constable in those specific circumstances.

Dr. Murrison: My noble Friend Earl Howe and my right hon. Friend the Member for North-West Hampshire (Sir George Young) argued that authorised persons entering a private dwelling under the provisions of part 3 should be accompanied by a police constable, and we are pleased that the Government agree with that sensible suggestion. The power of entry will of course be exercised very rarely, but Conservative Members regard such incursions as quite grave and serious, and we welcome the safeguard that the amendments will provide. We also note the protection
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that they may give authorised persons, and the evidential benefits that may accrue.

I was going to quiz the Minister on what circumstances she might have in mind in providing the possibility of exemptions to the sensible provisions that she has described, but she has given two good examples. With that in mind, I support Lords amendment No. 23. I hope that it will provide the safeguards that we have sought in Committee and in the other place.

Lords amendment agreed to.

Lords amendments Nos. 24 to 28 agreed to.

Clause 48

Code of practice relating to delegated functions

Lords amendment: No. 29.

Caroline Flint: I beg to move, That this House agrees with the Lords in the said amendment.

Mr. Deputy Speaker: With this, we may discuss Lords amendments Nos. 30 to 34.

5.30 pm

Caroline Flint: These amendments all relate to the disclosure of information obtained through the use of the powers set out in part 4, chapter 3, which deals with the protection of the NHS from fraud and other unlawful activities. Clause 50 provides special protection for information obtained from personal records, from which the identity of the individual that they are about can be ascertained. An Opposition amendment tabled in Grand Committee in the other place aimed to make it absolutely certain that any personal information was not disclosed to any person in respect of whom it was not necessary to disclose it. That was always our policy intention, but the amendment gave us pause for thought and Earl Howe, who tabled the amendment, graciously withdrew it in order to allow us time to think whether there was anything further that we needed to do to ensure that this important policy objective was met.

The result of our deliberations are the Lords amendments in the group. Although they look fairly complex, they do nothing more than put tighter safeguards around the disclosure of personal information. The amendments were welcomed in the other place, so unless Members are keen to hear the detailed explanations for each amendment in turn, which I am more than happy to give, I will stop there.

Dr. Murrison: I have left the Minister plenty of time. If she would like to explain the details further, she should feel free to do so. I am pleased that the Government have assimilated the concerns about the
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disclosure of personal information that were expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for South Cambridgeshire (Mr. Lansley) in Committee and by my noble Friend Earl Howe in the other place. On that consensual note, I welcome this set of Lords amendments, but I would like some indication of when we can expect to see the code of practice relating to disclosure, heralded by clause 48 as amended by this group. Clearly, it must be produced swiftly in order to give advance information to those who may have to disclose or handle information in accordance with the Bill.

Caroline Flint: I have taken note of the hon. Gentleman’s points and I am happy to look further into them and to provide more information about the code of practice.

Lords amendment agreed to.

Remaining Lords amendments agreed to.

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Motion made, and Question put forthwith, pursuant to Standing Order No. 83A(6),

Question agreed to.

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Government of Wales Bill

Lords amendments considered.

Clause 7

Candidates at general elections

Lords amendment: No. 3.

5.32 pm

The Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. Peter Hain): I assume that the programme motion has been moved, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Alan Haselhurst): Moved and agreed.

Mr. Hain: I beg to move, That this House disagrees with the Lords in the said amendment.

I believe that the package of amendments that we present today forms the basis of a cross-party consensus to achieve Royal Assent before the summer. The Government have listened to debates in this House and particularly in the House of Lords, where some major amendments were tabled. We have sought agreement and I believe that we now have that on the composition of Assembly Committees. The d’Hondt formula is now, instead of being up front, very much a fall-back option and on the back burner. It is there if needed, but we hope that it will not be needed. We have also made concessions on the name of the audit committee and, importantly for all Opposition parties and—frankly speaking—for ourselves, on the membership of the Assembly commission.

The debate on the details of the Bill has been had, and I hope that the Conservatives will now join the other parties in Wales to make the new powers work, and not pursue old arguments. I thought that it was very apt of the former Plaid Cymru leader, Dafydd Wigley, to have told the Western Mail yesterday:

That is indeed important. There are important preparations to be made for the election and many orders to be laid in respect of the new internal architecture of the Assembly. The Assembly officials and others want to get on with that and, therefore, Royal Assent by next Tuesday is very important.

After that brief introduction, I shall now address the amendments specifically. I realise that the ban on dual candidacy is contentious with all Opposition parties, but it is a manifesto commitment. Our 2005 general election manifesto stated that we would

That is a clear commitment from a manifesto that we took to the country in May last year and on the basis of which we won a resounding victory, certainly in Wales and also in the rest of the country. It is a measure that this House considered at length and supported by a considerable majority earlier this year.

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The proposals in clause 7 of the Bill, as originally drafted, will strengthen the integrity of the Assembly’s electoral system and the legitimacy of regional Assembly Members. They will put the voters in charge by enabling them to reject a candidate who can currently get in through the back door despite being rejected by the voters in a constituency.

I appreciate that this issue has aroused strong feelings on both sides of the House and concerns have been expressed, but I wish to draw the attention of the House to the views of Lord Elis-Thomas the Presiding Officer of the Assembly since its establishment in 1999 and Plaid Cymru’s former parliamentary leader. When asked recently by the BBC about his views on the dual candidacy ban, he said:

He added that

That is a significant statement. He continued:

I would be the first to admit that I have not always agreed with the views of Lord Elis-Thomas in the past—and I do not necessarily agree with every word of that quotation— but I believe that on this occasion he was speaking with the best interests of the National Assembly and of Wales at heart. He was speaking in a non-partisan way. I know that he was not a supporter of the ban on dual candidacy, but he has moved on and it is important that the House also moves on.

Albert Owen (Ynys Môn) (Lab): I agree entirely with what the Secretary of State said about the manifesto commitment and the fact that we are talking about something that the House of Commons has passed on numerous occasions. Does he agree that Lord Elis-Thomas is, of course, a member of the House of Lords and that he accepts, and his party accepts, in the House of Lords, that the supremacy remains in this Chamber and in the House of Commons?

Mr. Hain: Indeed, although I am not seeking to deny that there have been real improvements to the Bill as a result of debates and arguments in the Lords and the amendments that have been moved there. There has been a constructive exchange, which has partly resulted in some of the important compromises that we have offered—not on dual candidacy, because that is a manifesto commitment. In line with the Salisbury convention, I hope that the House of Lords will respect that, because it is fundamental to the Bill and to the integrity of a new electoral system for the Assembly.

Lord Elis-Thomas knows better than many the work and the preparation that needs to be done to enable the Assembly to make a smooth transition next May to the new arrangements, with a separate Executive and legislature. He does not want that essential work to be
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delayed by arguments over what his fellow Assembly Member, the Liberal Democrat Peter Black, has described as a

The real issues in the Bill are, of course, primarily concerned with giving extra powers to the Assembly and also with making sure that it acts as a proper legislature with an Executive who are accountable to that legislature—rather than a rather amorphous corporate body that has not really stood the test of time.

Royal Assent before the recess is vital and I am grateful that the hon. Member for Chesham and Amersham (Mrs. Gillan) and the hon. Member for Montgomeryshire (Lembit Öpik) have recognised the importance of that. The key immovable deadline that we face is the Assembly elections next May. Considerable consequential work is needed following Royal Assent and before the purdah period before the elections. That includes elections and disqualification orders, which need to be made in good time to set out clearly the basis on which all parties and candidates need to organise themselves and to allow adequate time for proper consultation with the Electoral Commission. The Bill includes a power for the Assembly to promote participation in and awareness of the elections—meeting an Electoral Commission recommendation. Clearly, there has got to be sufficient time for that.

Schedule 7 outlines the Assembly’s ability to make primary legislation if there were to be a successful referendum. A key commitment is to fine-tune that and to bring forward an amendment order to ensure that it is complete and accurate before the elections next May so that everybody is clear about the new footing on which the Assembly will start. A considerable number of further orders are required—about 14—many of which are fundamental to the separation and include provisions for financing and staffing arrangements. They are critical when it comes to delivering the policy in the Bill, and have to be completed in good time before the next elections.

I hope that I have not taken too many liberties in explaining to the House the importance of getting Royal Assent by next Tuesday. If devolution is to continue to be a success, and the Assembly to help to improve the quality of people’s lives in Wales, we need to move on—to go forward, not back. I urge Members to reject the Lords amendment and to disagree with the Lords on this matter.

Mrs. Cheryl Gillan (Chesham and Amersham) (Con): First, may I welcome the Secretary of State to the Dispatch Box? It may be the hottest day of the year both here and in Wales, but he always looks as though he has been out in the sun rather a lot when he comes to the House to grace us with his presence, so it is obviously weather that he enjoys.

Mr. Hain: Having a permatan does not prevent one from getting a cold.

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