Author Archives: hannahc

God bless the EEC

House of Lords

Courtesy of UK Parliament, flickr

Who would have thought that the dumping of waste at sea could bring out the Christmas cheer in the House of Lords.  Well Viscount Ridley must be commended, as Hansard records that on the 18th December 1986 he came up with this catchy Christmas jingle:

“Finally, there are those who think that your Lordships are at their very finest when they are debating sewage and related matters. For their benefit, and because it is almost Christmas, I hope noble Lords will allow me to introduce a small carol into this debate. I have no intention of singing it because I cannot sing. It is very brief: God rest ye merry gentlemen, God bless the EEC, And if you handle sewage sludge, don’t dump it in the sea, But if you get away with it, bless Sub-Committee G“.

The House of Lords were debating the European Communities Committee on Dumping Waste at Sea  Report (17th Report, 1985-1986 HL219) The report dealt a proposed Council Directive (8805/85(Com(85)373final))(the proposal)on dumping of waste at sea.

It does sound as if Sub-Committee G are the bad guys here but this is not the case. Sub-Committee G examined the evidence presented from many organisations and amongst other duties visited the Vulcanus II marine incineration vessel (which I have to say does not sound very joyful).  When Viscount Ridley mentioned blessing Sub-Committee G if you got away with dumping waste at sea, I think he was in fact referring to the Committee’s responsibility of identifying the geographic limits within which the proposal was intended to apply.  So if you were outside the  area defined by Committee G,  the regulations would not have applied to you. And doesn’t the House of Lords look really festive with out trying at all!!

Ian Hislop’s Olden days

Hislop filming (10)-001 (3)

After seeing the Official Papers collection on our libguide Official Papers: A guide to the collections, Wingspan Productions approached the Bodleian Law Library  to investigate filming census material from the Parliamentary Papers open shelf collection. After a busy week of arranging the filming and getting the material ready,  filming went ahead on Saturday 2nd November.  Ruth Bird the Law Librarian arrived to open up and let the film crew in at 7 am, Ian Hislop arrived an hour later, and after three and half hours, the two minutes of air time needed was in the bag.  So, look out for Ian Hislop’s Olden Days which will air on BBC2 in April.  “In a new three-part series, Ian Hislop explores perhaps the most distinctive, peculiar and deep-seated trait of the British – our obsession with the past – the olden days. In three films, Ian reveals how and why, throughout our history, we have continually plundered the past to make sense of and shape the present” (BBC Media Centre). The stars of the show were of course, the House of Commons volumes,  LXXXV and LXXXXVIII, session 1852/53, with Ian talking about the census material within.  The Official Papers Section will appear in episode three. Special thanks must go the Official Papers team, especially Julie and to Ruth for facilitating the film crew on a Saturday at 7 am!

Foreign Office Confidential Print

by Hannah Chandler, Official Papers Librarian

When I took over the Official Papers section in 1998 I was shown 46 m metres of shelving containing many very dusty old brown boxes, it was apparent the contents had not been shown the love of a librarian for a very long time. The contents turned out to be the Foreign Office Confidential Print (FCOP). The Official Papers staff set about carefully arranging the documents in conservation friendly boxes whilst recording each item on the Foreign Office Confidential Prints database.

The confidential printing of papers for circulation within the Foreign Office, to the Cabinet, other government departments, for staff in legations and consulates abroad started in 1829. From the 1850s the practice grew until by 1906 nearly every important despatch or telegram was routinely printed. The printing was carried out in-house, by the Foreign Office, which operated its own printing press from about 1825. A virtually complete set of confidential prints are held at the National Archives while our set, though substantial, is less complete, our database shows whether we hold a particular print or not.

Most of the confidential prints are in series which relate to the affairs of a particular country or a group of countries. In addition there are many prints concerned with particular subjects or events (e.g. Commercial Treaties and Tariffs; Fisheries; the Hague Conference, etc.) or reproducing single memoranda (reports, etc.).

Salient documents from the collection have been reproduced in print in ‘British Documents on Foreign Affairs’ and have been digitised by Adam Matthew Group working with the National Archives in the areas of Africa, the Middle East and North America.

Many however, have not been digitised or reproduced in print, such as the ‘Third report by Mr Adams on silk culture in Japan, dated August 10 1870’ [Print no.1846]. Throughout Mr Adams 600 mile horseback inspection of silk production in Japan it is apparent that he was treated kindness and the utmost courtesy. The report is full of detailed information on silk production and the care of the silk worms. As with many reports in the collection illustrations were included. Here is a rather lovely image of a woman setting the silk machine in motion by using a chop stick.

silk 003

The collection of over 13,000 documents really is  fascinating;  from ‘Correspondence relating to supplies forwarded to Dr Livingstone’ 1872[Print no.2081] to Captain Spratt’s view on a report of the soundness of the Suez Canal, 1858 [Print no.685]. Subjects covered include, slavery, whaling, disease, opium and exploration to name but a few. Search the database by keyword, print no. or geographic area and date. Short bibliographic citations  document numbers will be returned, which you can then use to find items in the physical collecton. All FCOP are on open shelf in the Official Papers reading room.  Search results can also be sent to you via email as an excel spreadsheet.

What links tattoos, hackney carriages and water …

Byelaws that’s what!

by Hannah Chandler



A lengthy search for byelaws recently prompted us to delve further and do a bit of research….

Byelaws are effectively local laws to deal with local issues. They are made by a body, such as a local authority, using powers granted by an Act of Parliamentm and so are a  form of delegated legislation. Some byelaws are made by private companies or charities that exercise public or semi-public functions, such as airport operators, water companies or, for example, the National Trust.

Byelaws generally require something to be done – or not done – in a particular location. As the non-observance of a byelaw result in a criminal offence tried in a Magistrates’ Court, they must be approved by central government before they can come into force.

They are usually restricted to a physical location such as a park (no cycling or skateboards for example) or a particular activity such as  tattooing or hair dressing. See for examples from the Oxford City Council.

How are they made?

Once the byelaw has been made under the common seal of the authority the byelaw has to be published in a relevant local newspaper as notice of the Council’s intention and the byelaw must then be kept in on deposit at the offices of the Council for at least one month before it can be put before the Secretary of State for approval and date of enforcement.

A slippery customer?

Byelaws can be quite hard to track down as they are not formally deposited in any one place.  Here are some useful information sources in order of relevance.

  • Local council, authority or private company relevant for creating the byelaw
  • Local library or record office
  • Newspaper archives
  • London Gazette
  • The government department responsible for approving the byelaw

A useful archive collection is held at the National Archives who has a set of printed copies of local authority byelaws dating from 1872 to 1977.

For more information the Bodleian libguide ‘United Kingdom Law’ guide has a page dedicated to byelaws.