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Lord Crickhowell: My Lords, it would be wrong to let this moment pass without saying just a few words. First, I very much hope that the assembly will be an effective organ for government in Wales. I wish it well. I have expressed doubts in the past as to whether this was the right way forward. But once the decision had been taken in the referendum, I had no doubt at all that it was our job to make the legislation as effective as possible and to seek to ensure that the assembly acts for the total good of the people of Wales. I hope that it does.

I wish to thank in particular both Ministers who have replied to our debates throughout with courtesy. They have sought, both in the Chamber and through correspondence, to respond to us and meet the points that we have raised. Of course I rather regret that they have not shown more willingness to accept some of the suggestions that we have made to strengthen the Bill. They will have learnt at least one lesson during the passage of the Bill; namely, that if they wish to shorten the time which the debates occupy on the Floor of the House, they would do

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well to avoid unnecessary verbiage in the legislation, and therefore miss the chastisement that they have justifiably received in the notable contributions of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale.

It has been a courteous and sometimes lively debate. I have much enjoyed the contributions of the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, who, with dog-like devotion, has supported the Government throughout. No Labrador has been more faithful, though at times I thought that the noble Lord had misjudged his role--he seemed to be trying to shoot the birds as well as retrieve them. He seemed at times to believe that he had become a Minister in the administration, and was more enthusiastic than any Minister has been.

I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Elis-Thomas, on the vigorous way in which he has personally defended the interests of Mr. Ron Davies, whom he obviously feels needs defending. His role has been that of the guard dog, yapping in defence of the Minister. As I said, I hope that the bones will be duly thrown. We have enjoyed our debates. They have been good and vigorous debates. As the noble Lord, Lord Elis-Thomas, knows, I greatly respect him for the contribution that he has made to Welsh politics.

I believe that we have improved the Bill. My noble friend was wrong in saying that I was responsible for the only amendment. There are other amendments.

I conclude by saying that I wish the present Secretary of State for Wales well. I admire the way in which he has carried the legislation to this point; it is a considerable achievement. Now, as a result of my amendment, which was passed, he will have to stand down as Secretary of State, but I wish him every possible success in his leadership of the executive of the new Welsh assembly and the further work that he will do there on behalf of the people of Wales.

Lord Simon of Glaisdale: My Lords, the Bill must not pass without a tribute from the Cross Benches to the occupants of the Front Benches on whom the heavy burden of the scrutiny and defence of the Bill has fallen. It naturally gives me particular pleasure, as a superannuated lawyer, that of the two Ministers, one was a former chairman of the Bar Council and the other is the Solicitor-General.

There have been many notable speeches from the Back Benches, especially those of the noble Lord, Lord Crickhowell, speaking with all the authority of a highly respected Secretary of State. I hope it would not be invidious if I refer only to one speech. That was the speech made by the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Coity, at the Committee stage. For those of us who favoured devolution, the result of the referendum gave some cause for concern, all the greater when one looks at the map. It seemed to me very important when the noble Lord, Lord Davies, said that he looked to the assembly as a forum in which real differences could be reconciled, a forum of reconciliation. If that can be done, as we all hope, it will owe not a little to the way in which the measure has been discussed in Parliament, in the other place, so far as I can judge, and certainly in your Lordships' House.

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In the meantime, we on the Cross Benches are deeply grateful for those on the Front Benches.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, there is light amid the encircling gloom. We have almost finished this Bill, subject to some refinements which the noble Lords, Lord Crickhowell and Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish, will readily and eagerly anticipate may be made in another place.

It has been a good-natured and good-hearted debate over a long period, with us often sitting quite late. When the Bill first came to my noble and learned friend Lord Falconer of Thoroton and myself we asked how we could improve it. We both sat and pondered for a while and thought we ought to introduce some superfluous verbiage, just to please the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale.

I shall not reiterate the tributes which have been paid, except particularly to the officials in the Box who have produced a masterly service for everyone. They have given briefing to Peers on all sides of the House, prepared amendments and provided explanatory notes. NAAG has

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done a good and significant job of work here, whether or not one agrees with its conclusions. I believe that John Elgar Jones deserves a word of praise, as does the noble Viscount, Lord St. Davids, who has done a good public service to Wales and, it may be, quite a significant political service to his own party, though it has been unpopular at times.

It was extremely generous of the noble Lord, Lord Crickhowell, to say that this was significantly the work of Ron Davies. I know it will be very much appreciated. It is the construction and product of his moral, intellectual and political energy. I do not believe that 18 months ago most people would have thought that he would manage it. It is a significant political achievement and one on which I know people will want to congratulate him. But he will particularly recognise and appreciate the source from which that very generous tribute came.

I say no more. I commend the Bill to the House.

On Question, Bill passed, and returned to the Commons with amendments.

        House adjourned at twenty minutes before eleven o'clock.

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