Yesterday evening I attended the Chamber for the Report Stage of the Criminal Justice and Immigration Bill . On one matter I had read about and discussed an issue with crossbench colleagues, and was pretty sure I was going to vote for an opposition amendment about suspended sentences. Everyone wants suspended sentences and community sentences to become more effective alternatives to prison but there is disagreement about how best to do this. But I listened carefully to the Minister Lord Bach’s speech which included some Home Office Research statistics and decided on balance that the Government’s approach was a reasonable one. They had tried one approach in the 2003 Act and it now seemed to need amending. The opposition won the amendment though so my change of heart didn’t do the Government much good. Last day in the House today before spring recess, which in my case, and I guess many others involved in the Health and Social Care Bill, will not mean total rest as during the break we still have to table all the amendments we want to get discussed in the committee stages which begin on first day back on 21st. Amendments must be tabled by April 17th. I went up to the Public Bill Office for the fourth time this week (it’s on the first floor, I’m getting some exercise here) to discuss some more items with the Clerks, who are both knowledgeable and very helpful in assisting us getting our sometimes wrongly worded stuff into the right form. They’d never say it was ‘wrong’ of course; they’d ‘assist with suggestions for improvement’ and thank goodness they do; you really need the skills of a lawyer to get them into shape. It always strikes me as a rather amateur way of running a parliament that backbench peers like me get no help whatever from parliament itself for doing their job of scrutiny but have to rely on external organisations or political parties. A very busy day as this morning I attended a Board meeting of Monitor, the Foundation Trust Regulator, with the Board of an aspiring Foundation NHS Trust providing mental health services. As ever I was struck by the enthusiasm and commitment to becoming a quasi-autonomous organisation freed up in good part from the bureaucracy of the NHS centralised management. And after that I dashed over to Imperial College in Kensington to speak at a conference of Palliative Care Clinicians, another impressive band of people totally dedicated to improving all aspects of the care of the dying. It’s good to see this medical specialty is finally becoming recognised as an indispensable part of all good medicine.