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Lord Rodgers of Quarry Bank: My Lords, I associate these Benches with everything that has been said by the Leader of the House and by the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, about how well we have been looked after by all the staff during a tiring, difficult and sometimes

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very fraught year. As to the business, we have had a lot of it, and probably too much. Alas, some of the legislation has left us inadequately scrutinised. But these are matters to which we should return on another occasion. Today is very special as is recognised by both those who will be here next week and those who leave us today.

It has been said by all of us in one way or another that this marks the end of an era. That may well be history's verdict. But the much more human consideration is that it will be the end of a way of life for many men and women--mainly men--who spend a good deal of their time in this place and serve it with a great sense of duty, as others have done before. Those of us who remain and come after must remember that. The strong feeling on these Benches--it is shared on all sides of the House--has been one of anticipated bereavement in these restless and uncomfortable days and for that reason we have found it a very difficult place in which to be.

We are saying goodbye to friends and colleagues. We are also saying goodbye to people we know less well. I shall be saying goodbye to faces that are familiar but to which, even now, I cannot easily give a name. Nevertheless, I say goodbye. I want them to know the sense of privilege that I have had in sharing this place with them.

The Lord Bishop of Lincoln: My Lords, I associate the Archbishops and Bishops on this Bench with the sentiments expressed by the Leader of the House this afternoon. It is perhaps appropriate that a successor of someone who signed Magna Carta and, to his cost, knows a little about it, should be the spokesman for this particular Bench this afternoon. On behalf of this Bench, I add my thanks to all those in this House, particularly the hereditary Peers, who always treat the Bishops with courtesy and understanding. Having been here this week, I am conscious of the sense of bereavement to which the noble Lord, Lord Rodgers, referred. Bishops are not unfamiliar with it, but it does not make it any easier to deal with.

This afternoon, quite deliberately, I spoke the psalm to pray that,

    XThe Lord shall preserve thy going out, and thy coming in: from this time forth for evermore".

That was not chosen lightly. I add my own thanks to the House and say farewell to those who will not sit here in future. I thank the Officers of the House who, as always, treat us so well and support us so generously.

Lord Weatherill: My Lords, this is a historic day but also a very sad one. Naturally, I am pleased that the amendment which bears my name has been agreed by both Houses of Parliament by such substantive majorities. Nevertheless, it is a sadness to say farewell to so many friends who have graced this place and who in many instances have contributed greatly to its work over the centuries. Though largely unsung, their labours over the years--indeed, the centuries--have

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upheld our democratic freedoms and contributed to the health and welfare of our country. It is right that tribute should be paid to them and to their forebears for their dedicated services. I echo the remarks of the Leader of the House, the Leader of the Opposition and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Lincoln in gratitude to the staff of this House, those who are often seen and those seldom seen, who serve us so well.

I am a relative newcomer to your Lordships' House. I came here only in 1992 after 28 years in the other place, which is dominated by the clash of adverse opinions. In the words of John Stuart Mill,

    XTruth emerges from the clash of adverse opinions".

The adverse opinions in your Lordships' House are less raucous but no less effective. The hallmark of your Lordships' House has been, and is, courtesy. I hope that we shall not lose it in the new House of Lords which inevitably will be much more political than the present one.

The role of the Cross Benches will inevitably change in that those of us who remain, in particular the 28 hereditary Peers who will remain on our Benches, are more likely to become working Peers. We have not been so called in the past although I must pay tribute to the work that all of them have done.

This is the last time that I shall speak in my role as Convenor of the Cross-Bench Peers, a post that I have held now for five years. So I should like to pay tribute to and express thanks for the support and friendship of those on all our Benches, but particularly on the Cross-Benches; and especially to the hereditary Peers. They and their forebears have made a massive contribution over the years, indeed over the centuries, in defending our country's democratic freedoms, from the Magna Carta to the Bill of Rights to the present day. The hereditary peerage has served our country faithfully and well; and it is right that we should thank them and salute them for their services.

I understand that there is a book in the Commons which seeks to discover which of the hereditary Peers will be the first Prime Minister in the new millennium. I suspect that this is not the last post, but reveille. I suspect that the hereditary peerage will continue to serve our country well in the future as they have in the past.

Lord Carter: My Lords, I commend the Motion that the House do now adjourn during pleasure until 5 p.m. to receive the Royal Commission.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

[The Sitting was suspended from 4.32 to 5 p.m.]

Royal Commission

The Lord Chancellor (Lord Irvine of Lairg): My Lords, it not being convenient for Her Majesty personally to be present here this day, she has been pleased to cause a Commission under the Great Seal to be prepared for proroguing this present Parliament.

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Then, the Lords Commissioners (being the Lord Chancellor, the Lord Strathclyde, the Lord Rodgers of Quarry Bank, the Baroness Jay of Paddington, and the Lord Weatherill) being present and the Commons being at the Bar, the Lord Chancellor said: My Lords and Members of the House of Commons, Her Majesty, not thinking fit personally to be present here at this time, has been pleased to cause a Commission to be issued under the Great Seal, and thereby given Her Royal Assent to divers Acts which have been agreed upon by both Houses of Parliament, the Titles whereof are particularly mentioned, and by the said Commission has commanded us to declare and notify Her Royal Assent to the said several Acts, in the presence of you the Lords and Commons assembled for that purpose; and has also assigned to us and other Lords directed full power and authority in Her Majesty's name to prorogue this present Parliament. Which Commission you will now hear read.

A Commission for Royal Assent and Prorogation was read.

The Lord Chancellor: My Lords, in obedience to Her Majesty's Commands, and by virtue of the Commission which has been now read, We do declare and notify to you, the Lords Spiritual and Temporal and Commons in Parliament assembled, that Her Majesty has given Her Royal Assent to the several Acts in the Commission mentioned; and the Clerks are required to pass the same in the usual Form and Words.

Royal Assent

The following Acts received the Royal Assent:

Food Standards Act,

Greater London Authority Act,

Welfare Reform and Pensions Act,

Contracts (Rights of Third Parties) Act,

Mental Health (Amendment) (Scotland) Act,

Immigration and Asylum Act,

House of Lords Act.

Prorogation: Her Majesty's Speech

Her Majesty's most gracious Speech was then delivered to both Houses of Parliament by the Lord Chancellor (in pursuance of Her Majesty's Command) as follows:

XMy Lords and Members of the House of Commons,

    XThe Duke of Edinburgh and I were pleased to receive the State Visits of His Excellency the President of Germany last December, of His Excellency the President of Hungary last June and of His Excellency the President of the People's Republic of China in October. We recall with

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    pleasure our State Visit to Korea in April. We were delighted to pay State Visits to Ghana and South Africa over the last four days.

    XMy Government have taken action to build a platform of economic stability and steady growth, based on clear long-term objectives for monetary and fiscal policy, with openness and transparency in policy making.

    XMy Government's goal is high and stable levels of growth and employment. The new system of monetary policy-making ensures that interest rate decisions are taken in the best long-term interests of the economy. As a result, the UK now has a sound and credible platform of stability. Inflation is historically low and expected to remain close to target. And long-term interest rates are also at historically low levels. Employment is up by over half a million since the election, with more people in work in Britain today than ever before.

    XTo ensure high levels of employment, my Government are extending the New Deal, to help more young people and the long- term unemployed. And my Government are tackling the poverty and unemployment traps. To make work pay and encourage job creation, they have introduced the national minimum wage and the new 10p starting rate of tax, cut the basic rate of income tax from next April, and reformed national insurance. And the Working Families' Tax Credit, introduced in October, is helping to make work pay for low-paid working families.

    XMy Government are continually looking at ways to improve productivity, including in the public sector. They have set tough targets for outputs from every department in public service agreements.

    XMy Government's legislation to raise standards for all children is now coming into effect. There has been a widespread reduction in the number of hildren in infant classes of over 30 and there is extensive support for the literacy and numeracy strategies. My Government published the Teachers Green Paper--the most radical reform of the teaching profession in a generation-- and have since announced progress towards a new pay structure for teachers.

    XParliament has passed for the first time legislation for the creation of a Disability Rights Commission, which will help create a positive climate for people with disabilities in their lives and work.

    XMy Government have put in place the framework for a modern National Health Service. An Act has been passed to replace the NHS internal market with decentralised arrangements based on partnership, quality and efficiency. Waiting lists have been reduced by 200,000 since their high point in April 1998, and by 69,000 since March 1997.

    XAn Act has been passed to establish a Food Standards Agency to protect public health and the interests of consumers in relation to food.

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    XLegislation has been enacted to support minimum standards at work, to promote partnership and to make it easier for people to combine family responsibilities and employment.

    XAn Act has been passed which takes forward my Government's programme of welfare reform, promoting work for those who are able to work and security for those who cannot.

    XMy Government have begun the modernisation of local government. Legislation has been enacted to secure the delivery of high quality local services on a sound financial basis.

    XMy Government have begun the process of restoring democratic, city-wide government in London. Legislation was enacted to establish the Greater London Authority, providing London with a new form of strategic governance.

    XAn Act has been passed which will enable the implementation of the EU Directive on Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control, which will maintain a coherent pollution control regime for the United Kingdom.

    XLegislation has been enacted to provide a fair basis for water charging in England and Wales.

    XAn Act has been passed to modernise and strengthen immigration control. It will speed up the system of immigration and asylum appeals. This Act is essential to the delivery of a fairer, faster and firmer immigration and asylum system to which my Government are committed.

    XAn Act has been passed which creates a new sentencing disposal for first time defendants pleading guilty in the youth court and introduces new measures to help vulnerable witnesses to give their best evidence in criminal trials.

    XLegislation has been enacted to establish a Community Legal Service and a Criminal Defence Service. They will replace existing legal aid arrangements and enable resources to be better targeted. The Act also extends the use of conditional fees, removes unnecessary restrictions on the provision of legal services and makes reforms to magistrates' courts and the appeals system. This will increase access to justice. Other law reform measures have been enacted.

    XAs a first step in a process of reform, legislation has been enacted to remove the automatic right of hereditary peers to membership of the House of Lords.

    XThe people of Scotland and Wales voted to have their own Parliament and National Assembly and it was my pleasure with the Duke of Edinburgh and the Prince of Wales to open the National Assembly for Wales on 26th May and to open the Scottish Parliament on 1st July.

    XIn Northern Ireland, my Government have continued to work to secure the full implementation of the Good Friday Agreement. They have, in co-operation with the Irish Government, established a

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    review to overcome difficulties in its implementation. They have welcomed the Report of the Independent Commission on Policing.

XMembers of the House of Commons,

    XI thank you for the provision you have made for the work and dignity of the Crown and for the public service.

XMy Lords and Members of the House of Commons,

    XOver the last year, my Government have played a leading role in the European Union. They have continued to strengthen bilateral relations with our partners. My Government have welcomed the entry into force of new treaty provisions which strengthen the European Union's Common Foreign and Security Policy and have welcomed the appointment of the first High Representative. In co-operation with other member states, they ensured a successful outcome to the Agenda 2000 negotiations that maintained the United Kingdom's budget abatement.

    XMy Government have played a key role in preparing the European Union for the historic challenge of enlargement. They have also helped the applicant countries prepare for membership.

    XMy Government welcomed the launch of the euro on 1st January. They have published an outline national changeover plan, which could be implemented should Britain decide to join. They have welcomed the appointment of a new European Commission, committed to reform.

    XMy Government have maintained strong and modern defence for Britain based on the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation. They played a leading role in the decisions taken at NATO's 50th Anniversary summit in Washington to modernise further and prepare the alliance for the challenges and opportunities it will face in the new century.

    XMy Government launched an historic initiative at the Franco-British St. Malo Summit. This will make the European Union's Common Foreign and Security Policy more effective and will revitalise the Atlantic Alliance.

    XMy Government launched an initiative at the British-Italian London Summit to improve the effectiveness of European defence forces. My Government have continued successfully to restructure the Armed Forces to meet the demands of the modern world.

    XMy Government reaffirmed their commitment to support the United Nations by signing a Memorandum of Understanding declaring United Kingdom forces potentially available for United Nations' peacekeeping operations and by announcing their intention to make an increased contribution to United Nations police operations.

    XMy Government made a substantial and vital contribution to the success of the international community's diplomatic, political and military efforts to halt and reverse ethnic cleansing in Kosovo. Following the end of the conflict, my

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    Government have played an important role in reconstructing Kosovo and preparing it for free and fair elections.

    XMy Government's political, military and financial commitment to Bosnia and Herzegovina has continued to help build peace there.

    XMy Government have supported the democratic transition in Indonesia and have played a leading role, including a military contribution, in the UN process to help bring self-determination to the people of East Timor.

    XFollowing the abolition of the death penalty under United Kingdom law, my Government signed and ratified the 6th Protocol to the European Convention on Human Rights.

    XMy Government have published a White Paper proposing a new partnership with our Overseas Territories and offering British citizenship to their people.

    XMy Government have negotiated new arrangements which re-establish links between the Falkland Islands and Argentina.

    XAfter extensive diplomatic effort by my Government, the Government of Libya finally agreed to hand over the two suspects in the Lockerbie bombing case. We are pleased that my Government subsequently reached an agreement on the re-establishment of diplomatic relations with Libya.

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    XMy Government supported and welcomed the transition to democratic civilian government in Nigeria.

    XMy Government have played a leading role in securing international agreement to reduce further the debt burden of very poor countries. My Government have put into place a strategy to increase the proportion of the United Kingdom's bilateral development assistance going to low income countries and to increase the focus of the multilateral agencies on the reduction of poverty. An Act has been passed to convert the Commonwealth Development Corporation to a public-private partnership enabling it to make a larger contribution to development by channelling increased private sector investment into the poorest countries.

XMy Lords and Members of the House of Commons,

    XI pray that the blessing of Almighty God may attend you".

After which the Lord Chancellor said:

My Lords and Members of the House of Commons, by virtue of Her Majesty's Commission which has been now read We do, in Her Majesty's name, and in obedience to Her Majesty's Commands, prorogue this Parliament to the 17th day of this instant November, to be then here holden, and this Parliament is accordingly prorogued to Wednesday, the 17th day of this instant November.

        Parliament was prorogued at twenty five minutes before six o'clock.

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