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Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, that question does not arise from the Question on the Order Paper, but the noble Lord knows that the consultation process is only just being completed.

Lord Roberts of Llandudno: My Lords, will the Minister, when bringing forward the review, consider that alcohol harm costs £20 billion a year in England and Wales and £7.3 billion because of crime and disorder?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I do not know the origin of those figures, but if the noble Lord would care to write to me about them, I will ensure that they are considered as part of the review which we are undertaking.
 
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Business

Lord Grocott: My Lords, there are two items of business. First, at a suitable time later today, my noble friend the Leader of the House will repeat a Statement on the Brussels European Council. It has been agreed with the usual channels that the Statement will be taken after the various amendments dealing with the establishment of a Supreme Court.

Immediately following that Statement, and again with the leave of the House, my noble friend Lady Scotland will repeat as a Statement the Answer given in another place by the Home Secretary to an Urgent Question, which used to be known by the more familiar title of a PNQ, on the House of Lords judgment concerning the anti-terrorism laws. The two Statements will immediately follow one another.

School Transport Bill

Brought from the Commons; read a first time, and ordered to be printed.

Public Services Ombudsman (Wales) Bill [HL]

Lord Evans of Temple Guiting My Lords, I beg to move the Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper.

Moved, That it be an instruction to the Grand Committee to which the Public Services Ombudsman (Wales) Bill [HL] has been committed that they consider the Bill in the following order:

Clause 1, Schedule 1, Clauses 2 to 10, Schedule 2, Clauses 11 to 27, Schedule 3, Clauses 28 to 34 Schedule 4, Clauses 35 and 36, Schedule 5, Clauses 37 and 38, Schedules 6 and 7, Clauses 39 to 45.—(Lord Evans of Temple Guiting.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Constitutional Reform Bill [HL]

The Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs and Lord Chancellor (Lord Falconer of Thoroton): My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a third time.

Moved, That the Bill be now read a third time.—(Lord Falconer of Thoroton.)

Lord Williams of Elvel: My Lords, I do not want to detain the House long, but I want to say a few words
 
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about procedure, which seems to many of us Back-Benchers to be—how can I put it politely?—somewhat awry.

On the amendments, we are at Third Reading, the underlying principle of which is to tidy up the Bill. Yet this afternoon and this evening your Lordships are invited to leave out Clauses 13, 15, 16, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 48, 49, 50, 51 and 104—not to mention certain schedules. If these amendments are put to a vote and passed, it makes common sense that they would wreck not only Part 2 but substantially the whole Bill. That may or may not be a desirable effect, but I certainly cannot understand how that can be consistent with the principle of Third Reading.

I understand that there is some ambiguity in the wording of the Companion on the matter, and no doubt the Procedure Committee will address that in the course of time. However, there is no ambiguity in the Companion's wording on the conduct of debates on Third Reading. Procedures on Third Reading are the same as those on Report. It is perfectly clear on how often, and at what point, a noble Lord may speak to an amendment. That, I hope, is well understood, and we can only expect it to be observed to the letter this afternoon.

What seems to be less understood is the guidance on the length of speeches on Report. Arguments which have been "fully deployed"—and here I follow the wording of the Companion—

    "in Committee of the whole House should not be repeated at length on report".

Again I have taken advice on this, and I am told that the same provision should follow through to Third Reading. In other words, arguments which have been fully deployed in a Committee of the whole House or on Report should not be repeated at length on Third Reading.

It is usual practice for the Government Whips to ensure that the guidance of the Companion is observed, but I would remind your Lordships that the Companion is the property of the whole House. It is open to any noble Lord or noble Baroness to intervene if he or she feels that the Companion is not being observed. Of course, since it is the time of year to be optimistic, we live in hope that none of that will be necessary, that the business will be conducted efficiently and expeditiously and that we can all depart for a relaxed and, I very much hope, a happy Christmas.

Noble Lords: Hear, hear!

Lord Barnett: My Lords, surely someone should reply to the very important point that has been made. Will the Leader of the House or the Chief Whip at least give us the courtesy of a reply to a very important point?

The Lord President of the Council (Baroness Amos): My Lords, I thought that my noble friend was referring to the general courtesies open to the House as
 
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a whole. However, I entirely understand the concerns that he raised. As he said, this is rightly an issue for the Procedure Committee, and I think that the Procedure Committee should look at it again. Perhaps I may remind the House that, on Third Reading even more than Report, noble Lords should not make Second Reading speeches, should not repeat arguments from previous stages, should speak only once to each amendment and should not speak after the Minister.

Earl Ferrers: My Lords, with the greatest respect to the noble Baroness the Leader of the House, I do not think that that is quite good enough. The fact is that the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor has tabled about 14 pages of amendments which came to us as individuals last Thursday, allowing no time for the amendments to be considered before today. Although this matter should perhaps be considered by the Procedure Committee, perfectly good guidelines are currently in operation and it would appear that they have been broken.

Baroness Amos: My Lords, perhaps I should remind the noble Earl that the Companion, at paragraph 6.132, states:


to clarify any remaining uncertainties;
to improve the drafting; and
to enable the government to fulfil undertakings given at earlier stages of the bill".

Lord Strathclyde: My Lords, I think that that is the purpose of the major part of the amendments that we are dealing with this afternoon. I understand that one of the amendments was not voted on last week because the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor had delivered only a certain amount of information, and right at the very last minute.

I think that we ought to celebrate the flexibility of our procedures. On the Order Paper, noble Lords will notice that next to the words "Constitutional Reform Bill", there is a little squiggle which indicates that minimum intervals have been broken and we are dealing with this legislation quicker than might otherwise have been the case. Is that not an advantage to our procedures? Therefore, given the tremendous importance of this legislation, should we not allow a little latitude?

Before a number of Peers rise to challenge this, would it not be better if instead of wasting time on this subject, we got on with the debate, and if there is a vote, we got on with that too?

Lord Peston: My Lords, perhaps I may intervene. I disagree so strongly with what the Leader of the Opposition has said that I think, as a Back-Bencher, I ought to say so. The fact is that we have a set of rules on purpose. During the many years in which I—like my noble friend Lord Williams of Elvel—sat on that Front Bench, we stuck to those rules absolutely to the letter. Indeed, we were under the impression that it was completely unacceptable to break those rules, and in particular to do things such as endeavour substantially to change a Bill at this stage.
 
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Flexibility is one thing, the purpose of it largely being clarification and, as my noble friend said, to fulfil commitments. The purpose is not to open up the whole Bill again in order to try to get the House to carry matters which, if they were relevant, should have been carried some time ago. I really do not see how the Leader of the Opposition can possibly ask us to accept that flexibility amounts to the view that we can do anything we like as long as we fancy it. That is simply not good enough when it comes to the way in which your Lordships' House conducts its business.


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