Monday, 12 January 2015

No to Devonwall seat

In my column in this coming week's Cornish Guardian, I have covered the possible re-emerging threat of a Devonwall parliamentary seat following 2015. The article will be as follows:

Last week, on behalf of Mebyon Kernow, I wrote to the (excitingly named) House of Commons Political and Constitutional Reform Committee.

This Committee is looking into how the parliamentary constituency boundaries could be redrawn after the next General Election.

Readers of the Cornish Guardian will no doubt remember that, in 2011, the Coalition Government voted through the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Act.

This Act set out plans to reduce the number of parliamentary constituencies across the UK from 650 to 600 and to ensure that (almost) all seats had a population of within 5% of the average constituency size.

A consequence of the legislation was that, if it was enacted, it would lead to a cross-Tamar Devonwall seat. At the time, local people argued that the territorial integrity of Cornwall – a historic Celtic nation – should be protected and its MPs should serve constituencies that lie entirely within the boundaries of Cornwall (and the Isles of Scilly).

Some areas – such as the Isle of Wight – were allowed special treatment and to sit outside the 5% rule, but the representations from Cornwall were ignored.

The boundary changes did not happen because of a fall-out within the Coalition and the implementation of the Act was delayed until after 2015.

But the legislation is still on the statute book. It has not gone away and the Boundary Commissions of England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales will soon be requested to come up with new boundaries for 600 parliamentary constituencies, which would need to be put forward to Parliament by October 2018.

In my representation to the Inquiry, I requested that central government recognise that it would be inappropriate to recommend parliamentary seats in any future review which transcend the Cornish border and lead to the creation of a cross-Tamar constituency. I added that they should think again and revisit the legislation to ensure that the territorial integrity of Cornwall is not undermined.

I also referred the Committee to the recent decision of the Government to recognise the Cornish people as a “national minority,” which reinforces why the historic border of Cornwall should be treated the same as the historic borders of Scotland and Wales when it comes to the delineation of new constituencies.

Other organisations have also made submissions including the cross-party Keep Cornwall Whole campaign group.

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