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Lord Roper: My Lords, this has been a complex day or two for us in this House—indeed a complex week. As has been said by the Captain of the Gentlemen-at-Arms and the noble Lord, Lord Cope, we have relied to an enormous extent on the pieces of paper provided to us, to those who have sat on the Woolsack and to the Officers of the House. The Public Bill Office has been able to turn around the various movements between the two Houses in a quite extraordinary way. It has made sure that we have been able to do our job properly, even if at times it has been a little difficult for some of us to follow all the minor points in its drafting—but we are quite convinced that it is right.

Perhaps I may also say that I think that the whole House has played an active part, but none more so—as will be clear when the percentages come out—than those who sit on these Benches. I am glad to know that

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yesterday more than 80 per cent of the Liberal Democrats were participating in the work of this House.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

[The Sitting was suspended from 8.33 to 8.50 p.m.]

Royal Commission

The Lord Chancellor (Lord Falconer of Thoroton): 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.

Then the Lords Commissioners (being the Lord Chancellor, the Lord President of the Council (Baroness Amos), the Lord Strathclyde, the Lord Thomson of Monifieth and the Lord Donaldson of Lymington) 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, 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:

Water Act,

Anti-social Behaviour Act,

Courts Act,

Ragwort Control Act,

Extradition Act,

Sexual Offences Act,

Health and Social Care (Community Health and Standards) Act,

Criminal Justice Act,

Transas Group Act.

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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:

    "My Lords and Members of the House of Commons,

    "My Government have taken action in support of major programmes of reform in the priority areas of crime, health and transport.

    "My Government are committed to reforming the criminal justice system, to deliver justice for all and to safeguard the interests of victims, witnesses and communities.

    "An Act has been passed to provide the police and other agencies with effective tools to tackle anti-social behaviour.

    "Legislation has been passed to reform sentencing arrangements and to modernise criminal procedures to protect the public and reduce re-offending.

    "An Act has also been passed reforming the courts system. This will allow magistrates' courts and the Crown Court to work more effectively together under a single organisation and will reform the system for enforcing fines and other non-custodial penalties.

    "Legislation has also been passed modernising the laws on sexual offences, strengthening the framework of penalties for sex offenders to protect the public.

    "In addition, legislation has been passed improving international co-operation in tackling serious crime, including terrorism, and modernising the arrangements for international mutual assistance to prosecute criminals.

    "My Government continue to modernise the delivery of healthcare based on the founding principles of the National Health Service. Legislation has been passed to introduce incentives to ensure that hospital discharges are not delayed and that those needing community care are fully supported.

    "Legislation has been passed to devolve power and resources to frontline staff, giving greater patient choice and more freedom to successful hospitals while increasing their accountability to local communities and introducing independent health and social care inspectorates.

    "Legislation has been passed to improve the delivery of local services through better financial management and greater freedom for councils.

    "An Act has been passed to improve railway and transport safety, establishing a Rail Accident Investigation Body with effective evidence-gathering powers, reforming the body responsible for regulating the railways and introducing alcohol testing on board maritime vessels and in civil aviation.

    "Draft legislation has been brought forward on a number of matters including civil contingencies, housing, nuclear liabilities, corruption and mental incapacity.

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    "Members of the House of Commons,

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

    "My Lords and Members of the House of Commons,

    "My Government continue to work closely with the political parties and the Irish Government to secure the full implementation of the Belfast agreement. Legislation has been passed which establishes an Independent Monitoring Commission to report on the ongoing commitments connected with the implementation of the Belfast agreement. An Act has also been passed amending legislation on policing in Northern Ireland.

    "My Government maintain their commitment to devolution in Scotland and Wales. Legislation has been passed reforming the provision of health services in Wales.

    "Legislation has been passed providing for the holding of referendums in any English region except London on the establishment of elected regional assemblies and other preparations for the implementation of elected regional government.

    "In addition, legislation has been passed to create a new regulatory framework for the communications sector to promote competition and investment, establishing a new regulatory body, implementing European Union telecoms directives and reforming rules on media ownership.

    "An Act has been passed modernising and streamlining the law governing premises selling alcohol, providing public entertainment and late-night refreshment, including important measures for tackling anti-social behaviour.

    "An Act has been passed allowing the Secretary of State to specify the pay, terms and conditions of the Fire Service and to direct the Fire Service on its use of facilities and assets.

    "Legislation has been passed improving water management and conservation, establishing an independent Consumer Council for Water, reforming the regulatory system for water and promoting competition in the water industry.

    "An Act has also been passed providing for the development of a strategy for reducing the amount of biodegradable waste going to landfill and help ensure the UK meets its climate change commitments.

    "Other important measures have been enacted.

    "My Lords and Members of the House of Commons,

    "The Duke of Edinburgh and I were pleased to receive the state visit of His Excellency the President of Russia in June. We are pleased to receive the state visit of His Excellency the President of the United States this week.

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    "My Government have played an active role in combating the global threat from terrorism and preventing the development or use of weapons of mass destruction by hostile states. My Government have worked to help publish and implement a road map for peace in the Middle East, and to support the rebuilding of Afghanistan.

    "My Government took part in international action to ensure Iraq's compliance with its obligations under UN resolutions. Iraq is now on its way to a better future, free and at peace with its neighbours. Political and economic reconstruction are proceeding apace and for the first time in Iraq's history it has government institutions which reflect the diversity of its people and uphold human rights and the rule of law.

    "My Government helped secure the lifting of UN sanctions against Libya following the latter's compliance with the demands of the Security Council, and have supported international negotiations with Iran and North Korea.

    "My Government were active in ensuring the decision of the European Council last December to issue formal invitations to 10 countries to join the European Union in May 2004. Legislation has been enacted to enable the United Kingdom to ratify the Accession Treaty with the new member states.

    "Through the Convention on the Future of Europe and the subsequent intergovernmental conference, my Government have participated actively in efforts to agree a new Constitutional Treaty for the European Union to equip it for the challenges of enlargement.

    "My Government published their assessment of the five economic tests on whether to recommend entry into the single European currency.

    "My Government helped to achieve agreement at the NATO summit last November to invite seven countries to join the alliance, and have continued to support these countries in their preparations for membership.

    "My Government were heavily involved in the continuing development of the European security and defence policy, including the conclusion of agreements between the EU and NATO for the use of NATO assets and capabilities for European security and defence policy military operations. My Government supported, and British personnel participated in, the first three European security and defence policy operations: a police mission in Bosnia and military crisis management operations in Macedonia and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

    "The Millennium Development Goals remained at the forefront of my Government's commitment to global poverty reduction. My Government have worked with partners in the UN, the G8 and other bodies to make progress towards these goals, particularly by ensuring support for developing countries' own plans such as the New Partnership for Africa's Development.

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    "My Lords and Members of the House of Commons,

    "I 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

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obedience to Her Majesty's Commands, prorogue this Parliament to the 26th day of November, to be then here holden, and this Parliament is accordingly prorogued to Wednesday, the 26th day of this instant November.

        Parliament was prorogued at a quarter past nine o'clock.

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