The Spectator

Letters | 30 May 2009

Spectator readers respond to recent articles

Time to talk it out

Sir: The EU is certainly one important cause of parliament’s loss of self-respect, but you fail to mention (Leading article, 23 May) what is now the main cause of the malaise: in 1997 the Blair government introduced the routine timetabling of primary legislation, and did so with the connivance of a then supine official Conservative opposition. Several people, including myself — I was clerk of the bills between 1995 and 1999 — warned the shadow Cabinet that this spelt the end of effective parliamentary government, but we were ignored.

Although much loved by academics, timetabling (along with the ‘carry-over’ of public bills) emasculated the Commons, removing its residual but effective power to prevent unpopular legislation from even reaching the Lords, let alone the statute book. It is little surprise that MPs have lost faith in their own calling.

Any genuinely reforming government would repeal these measures, restoring to the House its ultimate sanction of talking bad legislation out. Not much hope with either of the main parties, but a very strong argument in favour of a hung parliament.

Bill Proctor
Chislehurst, Kent 

Pius and the Jews

Sir: Contrary to the assertions of Jeffrey Pike (Letters, 23 May) my view of Pope Pius XII is not one-sided but is supported by evidence and the testimonies of witnesses, many of them Jewish. Mr Pike is obviously unaware that Pope Benedict XVI has opened the secret Vatican archives from 1922 to 1939 (he will open them to 1947 when 16 million documents have been catalogued). Few historians have visited the pre-war archives. However, one who has, Dr Michael Hesemann, has found numerous documents that contradict the myth that Pius was anti-Semitic; some can be viewed on the Pave the Way Foundation website (

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