The Boundary Commision for England
cc. The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister
Upcoming Parliamentary Boundary Review
We are aware from both statements in Parliament and reports in the press that a Parliamentary Boundary Review is expected in the near future, with the over-riding aim of equalising electors per constituency. We also note in particular that in response to a parliamentary question regarding the situation in Cornwall, it was stated that numbers of electors will take precedence over any other consideration including traditional boundaries.
In light of this we have decided to take the unusual step of sending a pre-emptive letter stating our grave concerns and very strong opposition to the notion that parts of Cornwall might be joined with parts of Devon for Parliamentary purposes. This concerns stems not from any insularity or parochial opposition to cross-border co-operation, but from a very strong belief that the East of Cornwall is part of a very different community from Plymouth and West Devon, with very different cultural, economic, social and political needs and issues, as well as obvious physical barriers for much of the length of the border.
MPs in Britain have long represented areas much more than simply a group of individuals – they speak for their constituency, and it follows that their constituency should have a clear identity. If a constituency has two or three different discernable identities it will very likely follow that elements of it will go under-represented or indeed unrepresented.
We have long held concerns about the tying in of parts of Cornwall with Plymouth and Devon for other governmental purposes such as planning, and note that this has been to a large extent reversed recently with the abandonment of Regional Spatial Strategy.
To give some specific examples, but by no means an exhaustive list:
i) The East of Cornwall is made up entirely up small towns and rural areas, in direct contrast to the City of Plymouth in particular. Indeed only Bodmin and Saltash have populations of over 15,000, and none over 20,000. Even compared to small towns and rural areas in West Devon the nature of the towns is quite different to even the casual observer.
ii) The Office of National Statistics agreed in 1998 “the separation of Devon and Cornwall into two separate areas, recognising the very different economic conditions of the two counties, and Cornwall’s sparsity of population, geographical peripherality and distinct cultural and historical factors reflecting a Celtic background”
iii) Furthermore, prior to the implementation or Proportional Representation for European Parliamentary Elections, the Flather Report from the EU Parliamentary Commission acknowledged the Cornish case to be a separate constituency from ‘West Plymouth’, citing ‘special geographical considerations’.
iv) Other arrangements that recognise the distinctiveness of Devon from Cornwall include the local government boundaries, diocesan boundary, PCT boundary, the structures of a great many voluntary and charitable organisations, and European regional funding.
v) The Cornish Language and the Cornish Gorsedd are two obvious examples of historical and cultural distinctiveness. That Language is protected under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages, which amongst it’s provisions states that
7.1 In respect of regional or minority languages, within the territories in which such languages are used and according to the situation of each language, the Parties shall base their policies, legislation and practice on the following objectives and principles:
- the respect of the geographical area of each regional or minority language in order to ensure that existing or new administrative divisions do not constitute an obstacle to the promotion of the regional or minority language in question;
vi) The European Convergence Funding alluded to above, as well as previous Objective One Funding, clearly demonstrates that Cornwall as a whole faces different economic issues to Devon. These are issues judged worthy of special funding intervention from the European Union, which treated Cornwall as a region in it’s own right.
vii) It has been an accepted principal of ethnic categorisation in recent years that people are of the ethnic background that they identify themselves as. A simple survey of residents from all over Cornwall would demonstrate that many consider themselves to be Cornish as well as British, and with a very clear geographical area to accompany that identity.
In summary we argue that to join parts of Cornwall to parts of Devon for Parliamentary purposes would clearly go not only across local boundaries, but also across regional boundaries – some would argue across national boundaries. We understand that the total number of electors in Cornwall for purpose of this review is approximately 419,000: with 6 parliamentary seats this would give an average of 69,833 – a fraction under the minimum number being considered of 70,000.
We strongly urge that a very small statistical allowance is made to accommodate a very large economic, cultural and social distinction.
Cllr. Adam Killeya
Town Mayor of Saltash