Friday, 30 September 2016

Sarah Newton's reply on Devonwall

About a month ago, I wrote to the Prime Minister about the Devonwall threat associated with the Boundary Review and copied the letter to Cornwall’s six MPs. I have today received the following reply from Sarah Newton MP, which is not supportive of our efforts to prevent the creation of a cross-Tamar constituency.

If you live in the Truro and Falmouth seat, please contact her to make her aware of your views. I will certainly be responding in due course.

The full content of her reply to me was as follows:

Thank you for sending me a copy of your letter to the Prime Minister.

I appreciate you taking the time to write to me to pass on your concerns regarding these important issues for Cornwall. I am sure that the Prime Minister will address your concerns but if not I would be more than happy to follow up on your behalf.

I share your concern about funding for the Cornish language. I think it is great that we have seen a revival of interest in the Cornish language and will continue to make a strong case for supporting it. 

As you may be aware, I supported the bid that Cornwall Council made to the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government and so I was extremely disappointed that the bid was unsuccessful on this occasion. I can assure you that this is not the end of the road, and I will continue to work with my colleagues and Cornwall Council to ensure that the Cornish language as well Cornish culture and history continues to flourish.

Along with all of Cornwall's MPs I was elected, by some margin, to do what I said I would do. That included following through on the legislation that had been voted through during the last Parliament, enabling the reduction of the number of MPs to 600 and making sure every voter was treated more equally.

The independent Boundary Commission has the task of consulting widely and updating the boundaries of Parliamentary constituencies that will be used in the 2020 General Election. The current Parliamentary constituency boundaries were agreed using the electoral roll and census of 2000. They are out of date and real unfairness has crept in with some constituencies having 21,000 and others 108,000 constituents.

As a result of the proposed new constituency boundaries drawn up by The Boundary Commission, one MP will represent a constituency that includes both Cornwall and a part of Devon. The boundaries of Cornwall are not being redrawn. Cornwall remains Cornwall.

However it is worth reflecting on the fact that over time the border between Cornwall & Devon has been fluid. It's also worth noting that Bishop Tim, who in my opinion does a great job standing up for people in Cornwall in the House of Lords, is the Bishop for Cornwall and also parts of Devon. Cornish MPs work with our colleagues and authorities in Devon to secure mutually beneficial changes for our constituents, such as investment in infrastructure.

As for the Cornish Minority Status, that has been taken into consideration by The Boundary Commission too.

I am very proud of my deep Cornish roots and am passionate about Cornwall's history and unique culture. While constantly needing improvement, I am also a passionate supporter of our Parliamentary democracy. I believe that it is a matter of fairness that every vote should have an equal value.

Thank you once more for taking the time to write. Please don’t hesitate to let me know if you feel that I can be of further assistance to you at the current time.

At this time, I would point out one massive contradiction in her letter. The Boundary Commission is seeking to create seats within the range of 71,031–78,507 voters, and she herself quotes the situation about ”some constituencies having 21,000 and others 108,000 constituents.”

But the two constituencies she quoted are still, in different ways, exceptions to the 71,031–78,507 rule. The constituency with 21,000 voters is Na h-Eileanan Siar and the legislation states that this will remain in 2020, while the present constituency with 108,000 voters is the Isle of Wight which, if the present proposals go forward, will have two seats in 2020 with electorates of less than 55,000!

So much for the Government's equal votes!

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