Saturday, 17 September 2016

Initial response on Devonwall from Government Minister Chris Skidmore

I have today received a response from Chris Skidmore MP, Minister for the Constitution, to a representation I sent to him in August about the Boundary Review. I had formally requested that he make an amendment to the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Act to safeguard Cornwall's territorial integrity. I made specific reference to the importance of the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities.

Sadly, but not unsurprisingly, the reply is less than helpful and he ignores the significance of the FCPNM. The text of the letter is as follows:

"The Government is committed to fair and equal representation for voters, and updating the historical constituency boundaries will make sure that everyone's vote carries more equal value. Under the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Act 2011, which was agreed in the last Parliament, all constituencies are to be within 95 per cent to 105% of a single United Kingdom electoral quota, with the exception of four island constituencies - two in Scotland (Orkney and Shetland, and Na h-Eileanan an Iar) and two in England (Isle of Wight). I am aware that it has been argued that other geographical areas should be treated as a special case and be included in the list of protected areas. However, this matter was debated at length by Parliament in its consideration of the legislation. The Government does not believe it should now seek to change the rules that the Boundary Commissions must apply when proposing new constituency boundaries.

"I note that you have explained that Cornwall has now been included in the Framework for the Protection of National Minorities (sic). However, the Government considers that equality and fairness must be the overriding principles when the Commissions carry out boundary reviews. For something as important as the right to choose the Government of the day, it is important that votes carry a more equal weight across the country. For this to be the case between, as well as within constituencies, each must contain an approximately equal number of electors.

"The current boundary review should, therefore, take its course in line with the legislation agreed by Parliament. It is for the independent Boundary Commissions to make recommendations, weighing the factors in legislation. The Boundary Commission for England has published its initial proposals for the new parliamentary constituencies and there is now a public consultation on them, which will provide an opportunity for representations to be submitted on the proposed boundaries."

I will be writing a response over the weekend, which I will also post on this blog.

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