Monday, 21 November 2016

Good news … Conservative MP opposes Devonwall

In my column in this coming week’s Cornish Guardian will be as follows:

Politics is increasingly partisan these days and politicians often fail to compliment their opponents, even when they do something worthy of acknowledgement.

But in my column this week, I am pleased to be able to praise Steve Double MP for opposing the creation of a Devonwall parliamentary seat.

Last Friday in the House of Commons, MPs debated a Private Members Bill entitled the Parliamentary Constituencies (Amendment) Bill. Tabled by a Labour MP from the north of England, the Bill proposes to make changes to the process by which parliamentary boundaries are presently being reversed.

It seeks to keep the number of MPs at 650 – not the 600 presently preferred by the Tories – and to allow the Boundary Commission more flexibility in redrawing constituency boundaries. 

And from a Cornish perspective, if passed, the Bill would put an end to the proposal for a cross-Tamar seat.

The debate took place at the end of the week and, because many government MPs were not present, it passed its second reading by 253 votes to 37. It now moves to the committee stage and it is anticipated that MPs from the governing party will look to derail the Bill in the coming weeks.

But last Friday, Steve Double was one of two Conservative MPs who voted for the Bill, and therefore against Devonwall and against his own party. 

Full credit to him for him for listening to the people of Cornwall and making it clear that he took this action because it was the “only way” he could see to “address the issue of the Cornish border and maintain Cornish MPs in Cornwall.”

It was, though, extremely disappointing (big understatement) that he did not get support from other Cornish MPs.

Two were present and voted against the Bill. And one of these, Sheryll Murray, participated in the debate and did all she could to undermine Steve Double’s arguments.

In 2010, Sheryll Murray pledged that she would “fight on and on” to make sure that the border was protected, but appears to have done a shocking u-turn.

Instead of backing her colleague from St Austell and Newquay, she called on MPs to “kick” the legislation into the “long grass where it belongs.”

And in a particularly unedifying section of the debate, she called out Steve Double for claiming he was speaking “on behalf of the Cornish,” adding that she wanted it “put on the record” that she was a “Cornish girl” and he “was not speaking” for her.

To be fair to Steve Double, he dealt with it well, pointing out how may people had raised the issue with him in his constituency “on the doorsteps, in the pub and at surgeries” and that it was an issue that he “as a Cornishman” felt strongly about.

It is my strong view that now is the time for us all to put pressure on George Eustice MP, Scott Mann MP, Sarah Newton MP, Derek Thomas MP, and even Sheryll Murray MP, to follow Steve Double’s example and do the right thing and oppose Devonwall.

Sunday, 20 November 2016

A couple of extracts from my speech at 2016 MK Conference

It was great to see so many friends at the 2016 MK Conference and to see such enthusiasm for winning a better deal for Cornwall.

I am pictured above with some of the speakers at the 2016 MK Conference: Dr Joanie Willett (MK liaison with the European Free Alliance), Natalia Pinkowska (EFA Vice-President) and Plaid Cymru AM Steffan Lewis.

Here are a couple of extracts from the early part of my speech.

An army of practical visionaries

I must make comment that this year also marks the 50th anniversary of Gwynfor Evan’s stunning victory in the Carmarthen by-election of 1966.

When he became the first member of Plaid Cymru to be elected to the Westminster Parliament – and he delivered a breakthrough which forever changed the face of British politics.

Some years later, when I was a young student at St David’s University College in Lampeter, I was the Secretary of the local college branch of Plaid, and I was privileged to meet Gwynfor on a couple of occasions.

I found him a truly inspirational man.

And what I took from those meetings as a young man was two things.

First, he had a vision for his country as an inclusive, progressive, self-governing nation.

And second, he knew there was no “magic bullet”, no easy route by which he could achieve his aims.

But that he and other members of the Party would need to dig deep and work and work and work for Wales, if he was to succeed.

And that is why Gwynfor had a relentless work ethic to make things happen. Which he and his colleagues did. Setting Wales on a political journey for home rule, that is continuing.

At Plaid’s Conference last month, I was also struck by the words of Adam Price, one of Gwynfor’s successors as member of parliament for Carmarthen and now the town’s representative in the National Assembly.

He said that – at its best – a political party is “an army of practical visionaries, a movement of doers and dreamers that together get things done.”

How right he is. And how we, as members of Mebyon Kernow and the wider Cornish movement, need to rise to the challenge to become just that “army” which Adam has described.

Faith in the people of Cornwall

I am proud to be the leader of Mebyon Kernow.

Ours is a political party that unashamedly seeks to give political expression to Cornish nationhood … and to secure a better deal for all the people of Cornwall.

But I do not want us to be defensive in any way or to simply practice a politics of grievance. 

Because I have faith in the people of Cornwall.

I look out across our fine nation and I see men and women of heart and spirit, of conscience, of talent, of invention, of ingenuity, of great common sense ... who together, have the skills and the passion, and the where-with-all, to build a better Cornwall … but we need to wrestle political power from the deadhand of Westminster to give us the tools to do the job.

Sunday, 13 November 2016

Remembering the fallen of the First World War

Thousands of people attended the recent Remembrance Day commemorations across Cornwall and I was honoured to be able to lay a wreath at my local war memorial in St Enoder Churchtown (above).

It is right that we remember the dead from all conflicts but, as we continue to mark the centenary of the First World War, it is especially important that we learn more about the war which engulfed the globe between 1914 and 1918 and led to the tragic deaths of millions, leaving no community untouched.

2016 is particularly poignant as it marks the one-hundred-year anniversary of the Battle of the Somme, one of the bloodiest battles of the whole conflict, which took place between 1st July and 18th November 1916. Forever etched on the consciousness of a continent, it also marked an intensification of the Great War and a resultant rise in the number of casualties.

In my home area of Fraddon, Indian Queens, St Columb Road and Summercourt, some sixty men, mostly clay workers and farm labourers, did not return home from WW1.

Thirteen lost their lives in 1916. Six of these men were killed in action on the Western Front, with Frederick Langdon (Fraddon), Henry Francis Osborne (Penhale) and John Thomas Andrew (Trevarren) buried alongside thousands of their comrades in France and Belgium. No known grave survives for the other three: George Bullock (St Columb Road), Basil Henry Gregor (Fraddon) and William Nicholls (Retew), and they are remembered on the Thiepval Memorial. A colossal structure, it includes the names of over 72,000 British and Commonwealth soldiers who died in the Somme sector.

According to his “medal card” a seventh soldier, Samuel John May (Fraddon) succumbed to an unnamed disease contracted when on active service in France. Having returned to the UK, he passed away and is buried in his home parish in the churchtown at St Enoder.

By 1916, the conflict was increasingly global with diseases, including malaria, also taking a terrible toll.

Two local men from the Summercourt area, Arthur Carhart and Samuel Gill, died in India, while Arthur Randolph Kendall (Fraddon) and Walter Vincent Trenerry (Summercourt) died in Iraq. Arthur Kendall was a prisoner at the time of his death. Harry Osborn, a former resident of St Enoder Parish, who had lived in South Africa for many years, also died from malaria and is buried in Tanzania (formerly known as German East Africa).

Closer to home, Philip Charles Rundle (Indian Queens) died whilst based at the HMS Vivid training unit at Devonport. He was aged only 17 and the cause of death was recorded as pneumonia. He is buried in Bodmin, close to where his parents were living in 1916.

Each year, as the names of the fallen are remembered, it is important that we task ourselves to discover much more about who these men were, what they did in their lives, what happened to them, and the consequences of their deaths for their families and friends.

[This will be my article in this week’s Cornish Guardian].

Saturday, 12 November 2016

Government response to Cornish language petition is "shameful"

The Department for Communities and Local Government yesterday issued its response to the petition, signed by over 10,000 people, to reinstate funding for the Cornish language.

The extremely short statement was as follows and has been widely condemned:

“The Government has provided Cornwall Council with substantial spending power to allocate resources to their local priorities, including the Cornish language.

“The Government has always been clear that its funding of some £650,000 since 2010 to support the development of the Cornish language was time-limited, and that the Council should seek alternative sources in order to place it on a more sustainable basis.

“Cornwall Council has a core spending power of £1.7 billion over four years from which they can allocate the necessary resources to local priorities, including the development the Cornish language, if they wish.”

The response is frankly shameful and it is clear that central government is not being truthful with the people of Cornwall.

It has previously been confirmed that a five year programme of funding was actually in the 2015 “devolution deal” until removed by central government just before the document was finalised. The leader of Cornwall Council, John Pollard, has since told the local media that he had been “reassured” by the DCLG that the removal of funding from the document “was a technical matter” and “that another funding route would be identified.”

A very measured statement has been published by Cllr Loveday Jenkin who, as well as being MK’s Deputy Leader, is the Chairman of Kowethas an Yeth Kernewek.

“The Government statement that the funding for the language over the previous 5 years of between £120,000 and £250,000 a year (total £650,000) was a time-limited commitment is not the understanding of the Cornish language community from either this Government or previous ones. This amount of money has enabled the voluntary sector to develop to meet the increasing demand for Cornish language services across Cornwall. Most of these services are supplied from the voluntary sector so small amounts of public sector funding are very efficiently spent.

“The Cornish language community are aghast at the misunderstanding of the Westminster government in relation to its responsibilities in respect of Cornish under Parts 1 and 2 of the European Charter for Regional and Minority Languages 2002 and the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities 2014.

“Previous discussions with local MPs have emphasised that the respect and promotion of the Cornish language is a UK State responsibility which has not been devolved to Cornwall Council in its entirety. Unless and until it is devolved to a Cornwall wide governing body with sufficient powers to cover the relevant agencies to ensure respect and promotion of the language at all levels of government the Cornish language community consider that the Government is in breach of their responsibilities under these international treaties.”

“So much for all those Tory promises”

It has been a pretty hectic week and I have only just realised that I hadn’t posted my latest article in the Cornish Guardian, which was published on 9th November under the above title. It was as follows:

When the United Kingdom Government signed off the so-called Cornwall Devolution Deal in 2015, it claimed that it was "historic" and a “major step” in their commitment to “extend opportunity to every corner of our country.”

The Prime Minister David Cameron said the deal would put power in the hands of local people and talked about the “fantastic potential that Cornwall holds.”

The deal also included reference to “Cornwall’s rich and unique heritage, including its historic revived language and passionate communities.” It even noted the importance of the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities.

At that time, I saw it somewhat differently from the press office of the Conservative Party.

Through Mebyon Kernow, I welcomed the fact that devolution was being talked about but criticized the very limited scope of the deal. I described it as unambitious, and also hit out at the growing influence of unelected and unaccountable entities – such as the Local Enterprise Partnership – which have no democratic legitimacy.

Some two years on (Friday 21st October 2016) the Communities Minister, Sajid Javid, was at an event in Exeter titled “South West Growth Summit.”

Speaking in the context of a potential “devolution deal” for the 17 local authorities in Devon and Somerset, he branded the previously “historic” Cornwall Devolution Deal as “not ambitious.” He made reference to the fact that the deal did not include any new money (even though it was Conservatives who refused various requests from the unitary authority for additional investment) and went on to tell the attendees from those two counties: “What’s the point of going down that route?”

In his speech, he disparagingly added that “some in Cornwall see their county as distinct from the rest of the region, a special case that should be handled separately from everywhere east of the Tamar.” He linked this statement to a few more comments about rivalries and tensions in the wider South West, before adding “that whole attitude has to change.

So much for the Conservative’s promises and their (threadbare) commitment to Cornwall, Cornish distinctiveness and our “rich and unique heritage.”

I can cope with Tory politicians contradicting each other and showing one and all that their spin does reflect any reality. But I am worried that central government seems to be, once again, looking to promote a “large south west” model for future governance which would see Cornwall’s distinct needs marginalised – just as the UK Government is pushing forward with a boundary review which disrespects Cornwall’s historic border.

Friday, 11 November 2016

Boundary Commission hearing at Truro – day two: A report

At Lys Kernow (“New County Hall”) in Truro today, a further twenty speakers appeared at the second day of the Boundary Commission hearing. All raised objections to the proposal for a cross-Tamar constituency.

The full list of speakers was as follows:

Angela Angove, Malcolm Brown, Eileen Carter, Lance Dyer, Zoe Fox, Ken George, Deborah Hopkins, Jane Howells, David Hughes, Juliet Johns, Angus Lamond, Charmian Larke, Rob Lawrence, Denzil Monk, Colin Retallick, Mr and Mrs Ronan, Craig Weatherhill, plus me (see my earlier blog entry for a copy of what I said).

Ken George gave his presentation entirely in Cornish which was translated into English by Mark Trevethan.

Once again the representations were extremely well-crafted and, over the two days of the hearing, it was reassuring that fifty people took the time to oppose Devonwall, while only three speakers (all Conservatives) failed to speak out against a cross-Tamar seat.

But there is so much more still to do, especially in terms of lobbying central government for an amendment to the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Act.

Let's keep working on this campaign.

Mebyon Kernow representation to today's Boundary Commission hearing

At the second day of the Boundary Commission hearing into new parliamentary boundaries, I made the following statement on behalf of MK

 Mebyon Kernow strongly objects to the proposals for parliamentary constituencies which do not respect Cornwall as a political or electoral unit; and we object specifically to the proposal for a “Devonwall” constituency which you have named “Bideford, Bude and Launceston.”

We believe that the creation of such a cross-Tamar seat would be a disaster for Cornwall, breaching our historic border which has existed for more than one thousand years.

It would also be against the Council of Europe’s Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities, through which the Cornish people have been recognised as a national minority. I will address this in more detail in a while.

Importantly, we would stress that this is not just a symbolic issue.

MK would maintain that the creation of a “Devonwall” seat would have a significant and detrimental impact on the future governance of Cornwall as a coherent political and economic unit.

Issues such as the future devolution of powers and the provision of public services would be undermined; we would be correct to fear for the loss of political and economic power out of Cornwall; and that the ability to prioritise the distinct needs of our local communities would be further denigrated.

I will not dwell on this as I believe this strategic argument was ably covered through the previous representations from Cornwall Council.

At this point, I would state that we understand the present constraints of the Boundary Review process – as presently being taken forward – is dictated by the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Act 2011, which specifies that the electorates for individual seats (except for four named seats treated as exceptions) must be within 5% of the United Kingdom average.

In addition, whereas Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales were protected as entities in the legislation – even being allowed their own Boundary Commissions – Cornwall was denied such recognition.

On behalf of MK, I would therefore formally raise an objection that the design of new parliamentary seats for Cornwall is being undertaken by a Boundary Commission for England and not a Boundary Commission for Cornwall.

We also object to the consequences of the present approach, namely setting the electorate of Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly (within a larger and artificial area) to gauge our entitlement to 5.27 MPs – which means that it would be a statistical impossibility for the Boundary Commission to propose five seats for Cornwall and Isles of Scilly because of the 5% rule.

That is why we are building a strong campaign to persuade central government to modify the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Act to ensure that Cornish constituencies remain whole and lie entirely within the boundaries of Cornwall (and the Isles of Scilly).

We further agree with previous speakers that, as far as Cornwall is concerned, the whole process is “not fit for purpose.”

We would remind the Commission that in Exeter on Monday, representatives of the Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrat parties expressed the view that they were content that the basis for the Boundary Review for Cornwall (and the South West of England), which was the electoral region for the EU referendum – and that they were content with the Commission’s sub-division of that area into four sub-regions.

On behalf of MK, I would state that we do not agree with those observations.

It is nonsensical that while the Commission is failing to recognise the integrity of Cornwall, it wishes to respect the extent of a wholly artificial governmental region.

It is doubly nonsensical that the Commission has come up with a “Cornwall and Devon” sub-region – so that while it fails to respect Cornwall’s national border it has, by default, ensured that the county boundaries between Devon and its neighbours of Somerset and Dorset would not be crossed.

Please accept this as a formal objection to the very basis of your Review and the geographical approach that has been undertaken.

Perhaps the key point is that Cornwall is not some generic geographical sub-division of England, but is a Celtic nation with its own distinct identity and culture – just like Scotland and Wales. It also has a unique constitutional position which sets it apart from the rest of the United Kingdom.

You have already heard much about Cornwall’s distinct nationhood and our unique traditions.

Ours is a national identity of great time-depth, and I would like to share some historic quotes with you, for a bit of colour, and to further emphasise this point.

In 1603, the Venetian ambassador wrote that the late Queen Elizabeth 1 had ruled over five different “peoples:”

“The English, Welsh, Cornish, Scottish ...and Irish.”

A little earlier, in 1535, Polydore Vergil wrote that:

“the whole Countrie of Britain divided into iiii partes; whereof the one is inhabited of Englishmen, the other of Scottes, the third of Wallshemen, [and] the fowerthe of Cornishe people, which all differ emonge them selves, either in tongue, ... in manners, or ells in lawes and ordinaunces.”

My personal favourite is from the resigning Archdeacon of Cornwall in 1342. He wrote:

“The folk of these parts are quite extraordinary, being of a rebellious temper and obdurate in the face of attempts to teach and correct.”

And we mustn’t forget the disturbance in Bodmin in the early 12th century, when visiting French monks suggested that King Arthur was coming back to again reign over Cornwall.

I can assure that these last two references do not represent threats, but shows how our Cornish passion which persists to 2016 has very deep roots; and why we are determined to campaign hard to guarantee that it will endure for centuries to come.

I will not labour this point further today because I believe the relevant arguments have been made repeatedly over the last two days.

Except to emphasise that ours is a national identity which survives and thrives into modernity. I am sure that you will agree, you have been very lucky to be treated to a number of presentations wholly or partly in the Cornish language, which is perhaps the most clear and compelling demonstration of Cornwall’s nationhood and its sense of difference from the rest of the United Kingdom.

I would suggest it is telling that you will not be hearing any presentations in non-English indigenous languages in your hearings in Exeter, Bristol or Poole – or indeed experiencing anything like Mr Thomas’s terrific rendition of “Bro Goth Agan Tasow.”

It is the view of Mebyon Kernow that the border between Cornwall and England, which has been in place since the early tenth century, should have been respected by the 2011 Act, just as the borders between England & Scotland and England & Wales were safeguarded within the legislation.

As you have heard repeatedly, three years after the Act was confirmed, in April 2014 central government recognised the Cornish as a national minority through the Council of Europe’s Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities.

At that time, as has already been mentioned a few times, central government stated that:

“The decision to recognise the unique identity of the Cornish, now affords them the same status … as the UK’s other Celtic people, the Scots, the Welsh and the Irish.”

Central government further summarised the significance of the Convention as follows:

“The broad aims of the Framework Convention are to ensure that the signatory states respect the rights of people belonging to national minorities, undertaking to combat discrimination, promote equality, preserve and develop the culture and identity of national minorities, guarantee certain freedoms in relation to access to the media, minority languages and education and encourage the participation of people belonging to national minorities in public life.”

Indeed, central government has also made reference to “Cornwall’s unique geography and rich heritage” in the devolution deal it agreed with the unitary authority.

It is undeniable that the UK authorities and various statutory bodies are failing in their duties with regard to the Framework Convention and the 2011 Act is significantly in conflict with many of the 32 articles contained within these protections.

As well as defending the culture and identity of national minorities, the Convention also seeks to protect the political integrity of territories associated with such groups.

I would ask you to study the relevant documentation and I would, in particular, bring your attention to articles 15 and 16.

Article 15 refers to the “effective participation of persons belonging to national minorities in cultural, social and economic life and in public affairs …”

The text in the explanatory report on article 16 meanwhile refers to the need to “protect against measures” such as the “redrawing of administrative borders” which could restrict the rights and freedoms of people belonging to national minorities.

The notes even raise concerns about gerrymandering.

And the fact that 57% of voters in the Devonwall seat would be resident in Devon, putting the residents of the Cornish part of the proposed cross-border constituency into a minority, further contravenes the Convention.

Frankly, it would also be relatively simple for central government to amend the Act.

Only a few months ago, the Government agreed “emergency” legislation to extend the deadline for people seeking to register to vote in the referendum on the European Union following the failure of the Government’s registration website. The Government could likewise deliver a simple amendment to the 2011 Act, to respect the Framework Convention and Keep Cornwall Whole.

And it is our hope that the Boundary Commission will recognise these arguments and make representations to the UK Government (as the signatory state) to correct this unjust situation.

We would wish to make a number of further detailed comments.

The first is about the level of representation.

Mebyon Kernow is not seeking that Cornwall be over-represented in the Westminster Parliament. In December 2015, Cornwall’s electorate was recorded as 392,223, while that of the Isles of Scilly was 1,651, making a total of 393,874.

If Cornwall had five seats, the average electorate would be about 78,775, which is extremely close to the top end of the Government's own range of between 71,031 and 78,507 electors per seat.

Indeed, as you have already heard, Cornwall without the Isles of Scilly would fall within the Government’s range as noted above, and it is ridiculous that the rigid application of the 5% rule as set out in the legislation is deemed more important than Cornwall’s very nationhood.

Secondly, I would wish to address the issue of electoral unfairness, often raised by government spokespeople.

In this, I would like to quote from a recent letter I received from a local Conservative MP. She stated that the present constituencies were “out of date” and “real unfairness had crept in with some constituencies having 21,000 and others 108,000 constituents.”

I thought that this comment was somewhat helpful in bringing attention to the poorly contrived legislation which underpins this process.

I believe that the reference to a seat with 21,000 voters is false as this is the Western Isles of Scotland – but that seat is protected within the legislation and will continue to exist with 20,887 voters. As is the seat for the Orkney and Shetland Islands, with a projected electorate of 33,229 voters.

The figure of 108,000 meanwhile refers to the present single seat for the Isle of Wight, but the legislation would in future allocate two seats to the Island. Indeed, the present proposals indicate electorates of 52,180 and 53,268 – both well below the government range.

This really puts into context our call for Cornish seats which are less than 300 voters outside of the Government’s preferred range.

A third new point is the practical difficulties of other aspects of this Review.

It cannot be denied that the rigid guidelines from the legislation and the resultant threat to Cornwall’s historic border is dominating this Review and, as a consequence, there is little real consideration being given to the detail of potential constituencies in Cornwall.

It is normal practice to minimise disruption when making changes to constituency boundaries, with the Commission seeking not to divide areas of significant community identity.

This is a particular problem in Cornwall – the landmass of which is a relatively thin peninsula.

Four of those five presently proposed seats – which lie entirely within Cornwall – stretch from the north coast to the south coast.

Obviously with this constrained geography, the rigidity of the Review, the 5% rule and the need to focus on whole council divisions, there is very limited scope in how parliamentary seats can be developed.

One key example, in your proposals, is the creation of the (i) Truro & Newquay, and (ii) Bodmin & St Austell seats, which mean that the unique China Clay Area is split between two constituencies.

The three divisions of St Dennis & Nanpean, St Enoder and St Stephen would be allotted to the Truro & Newquay seat, while the three divisions of Bugle, Penwithick & Boscoppa, and Roche would end up in Bodmin & St Austell.

The lack of local understanding in this area is exemplified by the fact that the actual parish of St Stephen-in-Brannel would also be split between the two proposed constituencies.

As has already stated, this area has often lost out to other areas across Cornwall. It often feels dumped on – for example with the construction of a massive incinerator - and it is disappointing that once again – this time through the Boundary Commission – the integrity of the Clay Area is deemed less worthy than the integrity of other areas.

It is my hope that such issues can be revisited once we have successfully dealt with the “Devonwall” issue.

In concluding, I would note that the resounding message that you heard from speakers at this hearing is that we wish to Keep Cornwall Whole.

It is my hope that the Boundary Commission will, in its heart of hearts, recognise that – as far as Cornwall is concerned – the Boundary Review is flawed and would damage the best interests of our nation.

Please join us in recognising this self-evident reality and making representations to central government to rethink their approach to Cornwall, to modify the existing legislation and make sure that a cross-Tamar, “Devonwall” constituency is not created.

Thursday, 10 November 2016

Great news: Ban on new properties in St Ives becoming second homes upheld

The High Court has dismissed a challenge to the policy in the St Ives Neighbourhood Plan which prevents new-build properties being occupied as second homes.

The informative press release from Cornwall Council is as follows;

Cornwall Council is welcoming the news that the claim for judicial review submitted by RLT Built Environment Limited of the authority’s decision to support the publication of the St Ives Neighbourhood Development Plan and put it to a referendum in St Ives has been dismissed on all counts.

The judgement handed down today by Mr Justice (now Lord Justice) Hickinbottom means that, subject to no appeal being lodged, the Council will now be able to progress the ‘making’ of the St Ives Neighbourhood Development Plan (NDP).

The decision also means that town and parish councils with similar policies in their Neighbourhood Plans will also be able to progress them. These will be dealt with on a case by case basis subject to supporting evidence and the relevant Examiner’s report.

“This is a hugely important judgement for Cornwall, St Ives Town Council and for the residents of St Ives who wanted to ensure that any new homes in the town would be the resident’s sole or main residence,” said Edwina Hannaford, the Council’s Cabinet Member for Planning.

“We also know that a number of other local communities, both in Cornwall and across the rest of the country, are also interested in including similar policies in their own Neighbourhood Plans and have been watching this case with interest”.

The St Ives NDP was the subject of referendum on 5 May 2016 and 83% voted in favour of Cornwall Council using the St Ives NDP to help decide planning applications in the Neighbourhood Area which covers St Ives and Carbis Bay.

Immediately prior to the referendum RLT Built Environment Limited, a firm of architects specialising in residential development and design, challenged the Council’s decision made on 17 March 2016 to proceed to referendum. The original challenge comprised 8 grounds, all but 3 of which were abandoned prior to the hearing on 6 October 2016, with the main challenge claiming that Policy H2 – the principal residency requirement, was incompatible with Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

In dismissing the judicial review Mr Justice Hickinbottom said he had not been convinced by any of the grounds put forward by the claimants. “I do not consider any of the grounds strong – and I have expressly found some to be unarguable” he said. “I heard full submissions on all of the grounds, and I have given a full judgment. In all the circumstances, not without hesitation, I shall grant permission to proceed on all grounds; but, having done so, refuse the substantive application”.

Boundary Commission hearing at Truro – day one: A report

At Lys Kernow (“New County Hall”) in Truro today, speaker after speaker appeared at the Boundary Commission hearing to raise objections to the proposal for a cross-Tamar constituency.

The various representations were extremely well-crafted and made a strong case against Devonwall. Many people called for the Boundary Commission to join them in making representations to central government to amend the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Act, while many outlined the distinctive characteristics of Cornwall and its identity. Three people gave presentations entirely in Cornish which were translated into English by Mark Trevethan.

People at the hearing who opposed Devonwall came from a range of Cornish cultural groups, some independent councillors, as well as a representatives from a number of political parties (Green Party, Labour, Liberal Democrats, Mebyon Kernow and even one Conservative!)

I left at six and there were still a couple of people due to speak later. The full list of speakers against Devonwall up to 6.00 was as follows:

Candy Atherton, Bert Biscoe, Dee Brotherton, Armorel Carlyon, Mike Chappell, Matthew Clark, Merv Davey, Mael Garrec, Peter Harvey, Claire Hewlett, Loveday Jenkin, Ian Lobb, Andrew Long, Greg Matthews, Nev Meek, Jack Morrison, Dave Munday, Gareth Parry, Mick Paynter, Amanda Pennington, Milo Perrin, John Pollard, Helen Rawe, Donald Rawe, Hugh Rowe, William Thomas, Mike Tresidder, Sarah Tresidder and Robert Webber. Apologies if I have missed anyone.

Highlights for me included the kilted William Thomas bursting into song with a fabulous rendition of “Bro Goth Agan Tasow, and Mael Garrec from the Union Democratique Bretonne making an insightful contribution about the negative aspects of border-blurring which had been experienced in Britanny.

Three speakers did not oppose a cross-Tamar seat. They were all Conservatives – George Eustice MP, Tim Smith and Richard Stephens.

I will be speaking tomorrow at about 2.30 and there are still a number of open slots for the hearing which will last from 9.00 to 5.00.

Staff from the Boundary Commission were very accommodating today and a number of people who turned to support other speakers were able speak themselves in some of the vacant slots.

So if you are free tomorrow – why not come along, have a say and oppose Devonwall!

Wednesday, 9 November 2016

The Boundary Commission hearings in Exeter … a report!

The Boundary Commission will be in Truro tomorrow for the first day of a two day hearing into the proposed new parliamentary boundaries for the “South West.” Hearings were also held in Exeter on Monday and Tuesday (7th and 8th November), and I attended the morning session on Monday. My report is as follows:

The Boundary Commission had invited all political parties with an MP in the Westminster Parliament (Conservative, Green, Labour, Liberal Democrat and UKIP) to make representations. Each was given a thirty minute slot. I have complained that it was unjust that Mebyon Kernow was not invited to make a similar representation and I have been assured that I will be allowed extra time to speak on behalf of MK in Truro on Friday.

On Monday, the first speaker was Labour’s Greg Cook from London, who described himself as Head of Political Strategy. He welcomed that the “south west region” was the “sub-national building block” for the Review, and fleetingly noted the unhappiness about the Cross-Tamar seat. He additionally queried the name of the Bideford, Bude and Launceston constituency, questioning whether the name should include reference to two Cornish towns when the majority of the seat was in Devon! Mr Cook’s main focus was on local boundaries around Gloucestershire, Bournemouth and Dorset.

Second up were the Liberal Democrats. They were represented by Gavin Grant (from their “Western Counties region”) and Ian Jolly (from their “Devon and Cornwall region”). They did say that they wished to “protest at the creation of a cross-border seat” but recognised that it met the recognised legal and population requirements. They did not point out the irony of a political party organised on a “Devon and Cornwall” basis arguing against a “Devonwall” seat.

They did build some humour into their presentations. When Mr Grant had to give his home address at the beginning of his presentation, he said it was less complicated than Mr Jolly’s who he said lived in rural Devon. Mr Jolly lives in Cornwall. They also managed to spell Camborne wrong on their powerpoint presentation.

And then it was the turn of Roger Pratt from the Conservatives. He also made a fleeting reference to Cornwall, noted that it was “not possible” to prevent a “Devonwall” seat, and stated that they thought it best that the Tamar was breached to the north – rather than in the south.

Iwan Jones spoke on behalf of the Green Party and set out clear opposition to the basis of the whole review and the creation of a cross-Tamar seat. UKIP meanwhile declined to take up the offer to present their views.

Richard Williams then spoke on behalf of Cornwall Council for about twenty minutes and delivered a comprehensive speech in opposition to “Devonwall,” making it clear that the unitary authority will continue to make representations to central government to change the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Act to Keep Cornwall Whole.

I trust that update is of interest to you all.

Monday, 7 November 2016

Letters to lobby against Devonwall - AVAILABLE NOW

Mebyon Kernow has prepared a number of “proforma” letters that can be used to oppose the imposition of a “Devonwall” constituency.

The letters are for the Prime Minister Theresa May, the Minister for the Constitution Chris Skidmore, the Boundary Commission and Cornwall’s six MPs, and are principally calling for an amendment to the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Act to Keep Cornwall Whole.

The letters make it easier for people to join in this important campaign. They can be downloaded from Letters to oppose Devonwall and sent off to the addresses on the individual letters.

Hard copies will also be available at MK’s Conference in Truro on 19th November, when we will be collecting together completed forms and sending them off in bulk to the Government, Boundary Commission and MPs.

Please join us in opposing the cross-Tamar seat.

Tuesday, 1 November 2016

Looking back: Six years on ... the Devonwall vote

After spending much of today debating Devonwall at "County Hall," I have just realised that today is also the sixth anniversary (1st November 2010) of a particular Westminster vote on the Parliamentary Voting Systems and Constituencies Bill.

The vote was on an amendment to protect parliamentary boundaries in a number of areas including parts of Scotland, Anglesey, the Isle of Wight and Cornwall & the Isles of Scilly. It was moved by the late Charles Kennedy, but was voted down by 315 votes to 257 votes.

As I recorded at the time, all six Cornish MPs voted to support Kennedy’s amendment, but unbelievably they only won the support of twelve other Conservative / Liberal Democrat colleagues which included Scottish MPs and the member for the Isle of Wight. The MPs were as follows:

Peter Bottomley (Worthing West)
Philip Davies (Shipley)
George Eustice (Camborne and Redruth)
Philip Hollobone (Kettering)
Sheryll Murray (South East Cornwall)
Sarah Newton (Truro and Falmouth)
David Nuttall (Bury North)
Andrew Turner (Isle of Wight) 

Liberal Democrat
Andrew George (St Ives)
Stephen Gilbert (St Austell and Newquay)
Mike Hancock (Portsmouth South)
Charles Kennedy (Ross, Skye and Lochaber)
Greg Mulholland (Leeds North West)
Alan Reid (Argyll and Bute) - teller
Dan Rogerson (North Cornwall)
Bob Russell (Colchester)
Adrian Sanders (Torbay)
John Thurso (Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross)

Over 95% of Coalition MPs voted against the amendment. This included Conservative MP Mark Prisk who spent the months leading up to the General Election masquerading as a Shadow Minister for Cornwall.

The political tally was as follows:

For the amendment (257): Conservative (8), Democratic Unionist Party (2), Independent (1), Labour (228), Liberal Democrat (9), Plaid Cymru (3), SNP (5) and SDLP (1).
Against the amendment (315): Conservative (273), Liberal Democrat (42).

Please note that (4) tellers are not included in the above totals.

Cornwall Council votes to oppose Devonwall

I am very pleased to be able to confirm that the members of the unitary authority have overwhelmingly re-affirmed their commitment to opposing Devonwall. 

The motion agreed to continue to lobby central government to change the legislation and make further representations to the Boundary Commission about the inappropriateness of a cross-Tamar seat.

I made the MK perspective clear once again: “Travesty – an assault on Cornwall’s very nationhood.”

But I was very conciliatory and appealed to “one and all” to oppose the creation of a Devonwall seat. I suggested that we were all councillors because we wanted Cornwall to thrive and succeed; that we wanted the best for Cornwall – but added that what hope was there for that “noble aim” if central government refuses to even acknowledge Cornwall as a distinct political unit.

The Conservatives moved an amendment which stated that the Council should not bother to offer any challenge to the process, which lead to much criticism of their group.

The Liberal Democrats were particularly quick off the mark to point out the failings of the Conservative group and to condemn their MPs for not standing up for Cornwall on this issue.

I found that quite amusing, as I had been among the protesters at Polson Bridge on Sunday when the Lib Dem MP Norman Lamb (from Norfolk) was among the speakers. He did a grand job; lovely speech! But he forgot to mention that, in 2010 when there was a Coalition government, he had failed to support the amendment to keep Cornwall whole. Indeed, he had actually been one of the tellers for the Government, when 95% of Coalition MPs had voted down the amendment!

Today’s vote at Lys Kernow to continue to oppose Devonwall was passed with 78 votes in favour. I understand this comprised six Conservatives and everybody who wasn’t a Conservative.

There were 12 votes against – all Conservative!