Friday, 30 September 2016

The Boundary Review ... "frankly a bit of a mess"

My article in this week’s Cornish Guardian covers the Devonwall threat. It includes material I have already placed on this blog, but it is all reproduced for the sake of completeness. It was as follows:

I make no apology for writing about the parliamentary boundary review for the second week running, as my initial representations have drawn a response from Chris Skidmore, the Minister for the Constitution.

I had written to him to express my opposition to the creation of a cross-Tamar "Devonwall" seat, requesting that he amend the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Act. As I explained last week, the Act is guiding the boundary review and its rule that individual seats must have electorates within 5% of an average UK quota means it is impossible for the Boundary Commission to propose five whole seats for Cornwall and Isles of Scilly.

Mr Skidmore's letter was predictably disappointing, as he asserted that central government did not wish to "change the rules."

It is all frankly a bit of a mess. The Boundary Commission is obliged to use the electoral roll from December 2015. This records Cornwall’s then electorate at 392,223, while that of the Isles of Scilly was 1,651, making a total of 393,874.

Many people who were not registered at this time because of governmental changes to registration and this does not include those individuals who, earlier this year, registered to vote in the EU referendum. The present number of voters on the electoral roll for Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly is actually over 427,000!

But taking the flawed December figures as their starting point, the Boundary Commission has ruled that all constituencies must have between 71,031 and 78,507 electors, except where the legislation sets out an exception for some Scottish island seats and the Isle of Wight. But how can central government seek to “protect” the Isle of Wight, allowing it to have two seats with 52,180 and 52,268 voters respectively, while choosing not to respect the historic nation of Cornwall?

Based on these inaccurate figures, if Cornwall had five seats, the average electorate would be about 78,775 – which is ridiculously close to the top end of the Commission's own range of between 71,031 and 78,507 voters. I cannot fathom why central government – for the sake of such a slight numerical difference – would seek to breach Cornwall's thousand-year-old border and erase Cornwall from the political map?

In his letter, Mr Skidmore also failed to give any weight to the recognition of the Cornish through the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities in 2014, which took place three years after the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Act was agreed.

I therefore find it find it indefensible that the UK Government is failing to meet its obligations with regard to the various articles in the document and the imposition of a Devonwall seat, breaching the political integrity of Cornwall, is a stark manifestation of this neglect

To stop a cross-Tamar seat, we need a simple amendment to the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Act. Please join me in lobbying Chris Skidmore MP, the Minister for the Constitution, at the Cabinet Office, Whitehall, London, SW1A 2AS or via

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