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Lord Carter: My Lords, we seem to be having our usual weekly debate on the timetable for the House of Lords reform Bill. The usual channels appear to be in full spate on this matter. I have not had any requests from my own side on this subject. I am a little puzzled why noble Lords opposite feel the need to raise this

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issue. Like all Chief Whips, I have been doing some sums. If noble Lords speaking from the Front Bench do so at a reasonable length, and even allowing for a Statement on Monday as regards the Berlin summit, we could still rise at a not unreasonable hour on each day if the Back-Bench speakers take on average no more than seven minutes each.

Noble Lords: Oh!

Lord Carter: My Lords, that was the average time spent debating the House of Lords White Paper, and here we have a six-clause Bill. As regards Hansard it is a convention of the House, and no more than that. It has been informed that the House is likely to sit later than 11 o'clock on Monday night. We have sat into the early hours of the morning this week. It was after two o'clock and the House was able to sit again at half-past two the next day. It is a convention, but on this occasion the House will be sitting later than 11 o'clock on the first day of the Second Reading.

The two-day debate was announced at the earliest possible opportunity on the afternoon of the First Reading of the Bill. On that occasion it was also announced that the House would sit at 11 a.m. on Tuesday of next week. Thus noble Lords have known for nearly two weeks of the arrangements. A large number of noble Lords have put down their names to speak on the basis that the debate will take place on Monday and Tuesday and have planned their diaries accordingly. Many noble Lords have indicated a preference for one day over the other. Those who are compiling the Speakers' List are working to ensure that those preferences are met. Therefore, to change the arrangements now would be an inconvenience to many noble Lords who would find the day of their speech moved from Monday or Tuesday to Wednesday.

I find it a little ironic that noble Lords opposite are now asking for an additional day for this Bill in Holy Week. It seems like only yesterday that we were told by the Opposition Chief Whip and his noble friends that it was quite outrageous that a Bill of this kind should be taken at all during that week. Now they are arguing the exact opposite and that there should be more business in Holy Week rather than less.

Lord Strathclyde: My Lords, if the noble Lords is suggesting that he is willing to delay the Second Reading until after Easter, I shall be quite happy to support him.

Lord Carter: My Lords, the noble Lord can do better than that! I am merely saying that we are being asked to find another day during Holy Week when we were told only last week that it was quite out of order to have this business during that week. Now, noble Lords opposite wish to increase the time spent on this Bill by 50 per cent. during Holy Week. To put the matter in the kindest light, I find these positions rather contradictory. In addition, an amendment has been tabled to the Motion for a Second Reading. I presume that noble Lords have planned their diaries to be here on Tuesday for what is likely to be a very important vote.

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I know that we have sat late this week. That was due to an unfortunate combination of circumstances. I agree that we sat unreasonably late on Monday, but the House has risen at a progressively earlier hour each day this week and the Sittings have not been unduly burdensome. I emphasise that I have given this matter a good deal of thought and calculation. I repeat that if the House as a whole is moderate in the length of the speeches, I suggest that it will not be necessary to sit unreasonably late on Tuesday night.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Births and Deaths Registration (Amendment) Bill [H.L.]

Lord Elis-Thomas: My Lords, I understand that no amendments have been set down to this Bill and that no noble Lord has indicated a wish to move a manuscript amendment or to speak in Committee. Therefore, unless any noble Lord objects, I beg to move that the order of commitment be discharged.

Moved, That the order of commitment be discharged.--(Lord Elis-Thomas.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Health Bill [H.L.]

3.40 p.m.

Read a third time.

Clause 1 [Repeal of law about fund-holding practices]:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Baroness Hayman) moved Amendment No. 1:

Page 1, line 9, leave out from beginning to ("sections").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, this large group of amendments make minor drafting and consequential amendments to the Bill. However, it is perhaps worth my spending a few moments explaining a number of them.

The changes and additions to the "Repeals" schedule (Amendments Nos. 87, 88, 92 and 93) reflect repeals made by the provisions debated and agreed at Report stage on unified budgets, the penalty charge and the repeal of the Nurses, Midwives and Health Visitors Act.

The PPRS applies to England, Wales and Scotland. Amendments Nos. 21 and 22 therefore extend the provisions in Clause 34, subsections (5) and (6) to Scotland.

Amendments Nos. 65 and 66 remove a provision in the Bill that would allow the commission to appoint its own auditors. The provisions as drafted allow for a two-tier auditing process for the commission's accounts--the first by auditors appointed by the commission and the second by the National Audit Office. These amendments remove the provision for the commission to appoint its own auditors so that the commission's accounts will be solely audited by the

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National Audit Office. This will bring the accounting and auditing arrangements for the commission into line with those for other Department of Health NDPBs. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 2 [Primary Care Trusts]:

Baroness Hayman moved Amendment No. 2:

Page 1, line 12, leave out from ("1977") to ("there") in line 13.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Clement-Jones moved Amendment No. 3:

Page 2, line 19, at end insert--
("( ) No regulations are to be made under subsection (5) unless a draft has been laid before and approved by resolution of each House of Parliament.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, before launching on any lengthy debate--I do not plan to do that on this amendment which has been before the House in various guises at both Committee and Report stages--and because the Procedure Committee effectively disbarred us from making comment on the passing of the Bill at the end of Third Reading, I wish to say from these Benches how much we appreciate the flexibility that the Minister has shown throughout the passage of the Bill. There were a number of instances, which I do not propose to adumbrate, where that has clearly been the case--primary care trusts, the statutory and voluntary pricing scheme to pharmaceuticals and, above all, the Clause 47 provisions regulating the professions. I should like to take this opportunity to thank the Minister for making this Bill considerably better than when it started on its course through this House.

I know the Minister and her team have tried extremely hard to fulfil all the commitments that the Minister made during the passage of the Bill through this House and it is therefore with a tinge of disappointment that I find she was unable to come back to us on Third Reading with a proposal for an equality of opportunity provision, both for primary care trusts and for the commission for health improvement. As noble Lords will know, and the Minister is only too well aware, this has strong backing--perhaps not in this precise formulation--from a wide range of sources. Noble Lords have spoken in support throughout the passage of the Bill. Also, I have before me a letter commending the provisions of this amendment to the Minister, again not in precise terms but that is the spirit in which it was written, particularly in the context of the aftermath of the Lawrence Inquiry and the fact that the Home Secretary has accepted the provisions of that inquiry.

This amendment is a further probing amendment designed to elicit from the Minister a progress report. Whether to give a specific or a general duty is not entirely clear, and that information would be extremely helpful. But it would also be useful to hear from the Minister what progress the department is making in formulating a suitable duty on primary care trusts and

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the commission for health improvement to ensure that there is a quality of access particularly to healthcare across the range of health services.

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, is the noble Lord speaking to Amendment No. 3 or No. 4? I rather suspect he is addressing Amendment No. 4.

Lord Clement-Jones: My Lords, I apologise to the House and am grateful to the Minister for that intervention. I do not know whether it is possible to treat this as a speech on Amendment No. 4. If your Lordships give me assent to that I shall not need to rewind the tape and we can simply re-marshal the amendments to take Amendment No. 3 after Amendment No. 4. I do not know whether the procedure of the House makes that possible. If it does, I ask your Lordships' indulgence.

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