Devolution and Whitehall

Very sketchy and inadequate arrangements have been made to keep the three devolved governments in close touch with the UK government. Formal meetings are rare and little information is made available about what happens at them. The machinery exists, but it is not being used properly.

"Phantoms of hope" for devolution in Northern Ireland

On 14 November, the Lords passed the Northern Ireland Budget Bill, an emergency measure to provide funds for public services in the Province. The Bill was made necessary by the failure of talks to restore Northern Ireland’s devolved government, which collapsed in January.

Online voting

As a historian, Alistair Lexden devotes much time to thinking and writing about the past, but he does not neglect the future. He is a Patron of the Institute of Digital Democracy, and contributed a foreword to its report on online voting, published on November 6.

A new Lords Deputy Chairman

On 6 November, Alistair Lexden was formally appointed as a Deputy Chairman of Committees in the Lords, becoming one of a group of some 20 drawn from all parties and the crossbenches. Deputy Chairmen assist the Lord Speaker in performing his duties.

Oscar Wilde's prison books

A prominent Liberal politician came to Oscar Wilde’s aid after his conviction and imprisonment in 1895. An article in TLS: The Times Literary Supplement on October 20 made brief mention of the books that were sent to Wilde, whom some thought close to mental collapse, by this helpful MP.

The Balfour Declaration

On 2 November 1917, Lord Balfour, then Foreign Secretary, signed a short 67-word letter to Lord Rothschild, a leader of the British-Jewish community, containing a statement which instantly became famous as the Balfour Declaration when it was released to the press seven days later.

250th letter in The Times - and a record

Alistair Lexden’s letter in The Times on October 30 (see below) was his 250th in what is generally regarded as the most famous letters page in the world.

Too many Privy Councillors

There is widespread agreement that Britain has too many MPs and too many peers with seats in the Lords. The excessive number of Privy Councillors— people who style themselves Right Honourable—has passed almost unnoticed.

Seeking justice for IRA victims

On October 27, the Lords gave a Second Reading to a Private Member’s Bill introduced by Lord (Reg) Empey, former leader of the Ulster Unionist Party.

Books and indexes

Books need proper indexes if the reader is to be able to find his or her way around them. A letter published in The Spectator magazine on 21 October stated: ‘Someone once argued that publishing a non-fiction book without an index should be against the law’.