Thursday 24 December 2020

Nadelik Lowen ha Bledhen Nowydh Da

I would like to wish everyone the very best for Christmas as well as a healthy New Year for one and all.

In addition, I would like to thank all those people who have been supportive of my work throughout 2020. I can assure you all that I am most grateful for the help and encouragement I have received. It is much appreciated.

Nadelik Lowen ha Bledhen Nowydh Da.

Thursday 17 December 2020



The UK Government has announced a rethink of its proposed “standard method for establishing housing requirement figures,” which would have imposed a figure of around 4,000 new properties on Cornwall each year – equivalent to a 20-year housing target of more than 81,000 dwellings.

There will however still be a top-down target from central government, though the formula – described as a “mutant algorithm” by many – has been modified. Figures from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government released this week suggest that the annual target for Cornwall would now be 2,820 housing units per annum – equivalent to a 20-year housing target of 56,400 new properties.

This is higher than the already high 52,500 figure in the Cornwall Local Plan.

Announcements are still awaited about the other planning changes proposed in the Government's Planning White Paper – which were strongly opposed by Mebyon Kernow.

I have acknowledged the u-turn, but said that it does not go far enough and that the revised housing target would still be too high for Cornwall. 

It remains the view of Mebyon Kernow that the wider proposals in the Planning White Paper should be ditched, and responsibility for all aspects of planning and housing should be devolved to Cornwall – so that communities and politicians to the west of the Tamar can decide what is right for Cornwall.

The above image is of Cllr Matt Luke and Ilooking over the site of the so-called West Carclaze Garden Village - which we opposed for a decade.


On Monday 14th December, the Parliamentary Constituencies Bill secured royal assent.

The legislation will set the framework for future reviews into the boundaries of parliamentary seats in the House of Commons, but does not include a clause to ensure that “Devonwall” seats are not created in the future.

Mebyon Kernow has criticized Cornwall’s six MPs for failing to amend the Parliamentary Constituencies Bill in order to guarantee that cross-Tamar seats would not be allowed.

When the MPs had an opportunity to get the legislation changed, they chose to not to move an amendment to Keep Cornwall Whole.

MK’s leadership team has issued the following statement:

“In 2014, the UK Government accepted that the Cornish are a national minority through the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities. In doing this, they signed up to numerous obligations, which included respect for the territorial integrity of Cornwall.

“We cannot understand why the Westminster establishment has such a problem with meeting its obligations and were simply dumbfounded when Cornwall’s MPs failed to move an amendment to protect Cornwall (and the Isles of Scilly) as an electoral area.

“How can they ever claim to be standing up for Cornwall, if they refuse to safeguard the very existence of Cornwall as a political, economic, cultural or electoral area?”

Background information

1. The Parliamentary Constituencies Bill (now an Act) sets the framework for future reviews into the boundaries of parliamentary seats in the House of Commons. It maintains the number of MPs at 650 and specifies that individual constituencies must be within 5% of the average seat size – unless an area is named in the legislation. It also states that fresh reviews will take place around every eight years or so.

2. Figures from the Office of National Statistics state that Cornwall’s electorate is anticipated to rise much faster than that of the UK as a whole. If the ONS is right, by 2030, it could be statistically impossible to Keep Cornwall Whole because of the 5% rule.

3. The Bill passed its third reading in the House of Commons on 14th July, when Cornwall’s MPs failed to move an amendment to prevent “Devonwall.”

4. An amendment to stop “Devonwall” was moved in the House of Lords by Lord Paul Tyler, but it was not pushed to a vote.

5. Peers did however to increase the potential variance in constituency size from 5% to 7.5%. This would help make a cross-Tamar seat less likely – though not impossible – but Conservative MPs in the House of Commons rejected this change on 10th November.

6. The Parliamentary Constituencies Bill secured royal assent on 14th December.

Is there an appetite in Cornwall for devolution?

2020 has focused attention on the workings of devolution, as the governments of Nicola Sturgeon, Mark Drakeford and Arlene Foster have devised their own responses to the pandemic in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland respectively.

There are also growing calls, largely in the north of England, for the transfer of powers away from Whitehall. This follows well-documented disagreements between central government and northern political leaders, who feel that their regions have not been treated fairly during the health emergency.

The mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, has called for a more federal model of government, with the northern regions becoming “masters of their own destiny.” He told journalists that “the time has come for a more federal UK where we take more power out of Westminster, put it closer to people, and I think that in the long run this will strengthen the country and build a better way of doing politics.”

I welcome all moves to build a less centralised and more balanced state, but I find it disappointing that the calls for devolution to Cornwall from our political classes continue to be quite muted and to lack ambition. 

Nineteen years ago this month, on 12th December 2001, I was part of a delegation that delivered a CD-ROM to 10 Downing Street. It contained the names of over 50,000 people who, during the previous 18 months, had signed individual declarations calling for a Cornish Assembly.

I am so proud to have been the author of the declaration. And I will never forget how the campaign had such energy thanks to the leadership of Paddy McDonough who co-ordinated teams of petitioners that took to the streets, weekend after weekend, to sign up supporters.

It was first a Mebyon Kernow initiative, but it became much more than that. A conscious decision was taken to broaden the basis of the campaign through the cross-party Cornish Constitutional Convention and support came from across the political spectrum.

It remains a great disappointment to me that the Labour Government of the time ignored the declarations and, instead of securing more powers for Cornwall, we then had the centralisation of local government forced upon us.

Sadly, whenever the political establishments in Cornwall and London talk about “devolution” these days, it tends to be about very limited accommodations between central government and the unitary authority.

I sincerely hope that by the time we mark the 20th anniversary of the 50,000 declarations in 2021, we will have been able to reinvigorate the campaign for a National Assembly of Cornwall.

[This is my article in this week's Cornish Guardian].

Thursday 3 December 2020


My article in this week’s Cornish Guardian looks at the recent Spending Review. It is as follows:

In their 2019 manifesto, the Conservative Party pledged that it would “share prosperity across the country” and address “longstanding economic challenges in parts of the country.” The document stated that the “Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, has set out an agenda for levelling up every part of the UK … in the 21st century, we need to get away from the idea that ‘Whitehall knows best’ and that all growth must inevitably start in London.”

In recent months, this levelling up agenda to “reduce regional disparities” across the UK has been an almost constant refrain from senior Conservatives, while a number of their MPs have set up a thinktank to boost "Britain's lagging areas.”

Given such public pronouncements, it is little wonder that so many people are disappointed at the content of last week’s Spending Review.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer did reveal a new “levelling up fund” worth four billion pounds, but added that “any local area” would be able to bid for projects. It seems nonsensical to me that a fund designed to combat regional inequalities is not targeted at poorer areas with a lower economic performance.

Helen Barnard, the director of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation was particularly condemning. She told the media that: “Remarkably for a much-hyped statement on levelling-up opportunity across the country, the chancellor’s words ring hollow as weaker local economies will be getting less money than previously in the aftermath of the pandemic.”

It is my view that if the UK Government is serious about regional inequality, it needs to do more than come up with one-off “levelling up fund,” that actually contains less money than is being spent on individual transport projects in and for London. An estimated £19 billion is being spent on the latest Crossrail project in the capital, plus over £80 billion on the HS2.

The Government needs to live up to its promise by looking much more seriously at how it can to rebalance the economy away from London which one MP, a few years ago, described as "a giant suction machine" draining the life out of the rest of the country.”

In his statement, the Chancellor also mentioned the UK Shared Prosperity Fund – which will replace EU structural funds – and pledged that, across the UK as a whole, it will at least match EU receipts. It was disappointing that he did not specifically promise that Cornwall – one of the two poorest parts of the United Kingdom – would receive at least as much investment that it would have expected to receive from structural funds.