Friday, June 15, 2007

Kernow bys vyken! Cernyw am byth!

Good to see Cornish identity raising its head in the pages of the Guardian on Friday 15th. OK, there was a slightly patronising under-current to the piece, but then, attempted bombings of a hair-dressers and bingo hall seems an odd choice for an armed movement.

Better that Cornish nationalists concentrate on the language, culture and constitutional politics and not violence. Still, politicians need to prove that politics works too an not just mouth platitudes.

Funny, here in Wales, the issue of affordable housing for local people is now OK for Brit Nat Welsh Labour to discuss. Yes, six years after they lambasted Simon Glyn. Still, I suppose losing Labour votes in England to the BNP had its effect.

Funny again; voters switching to real racist parties like the BNP earn more respect with Labour politicians than voters voting for constitutional nationalist parties in Wales (or Cornwall). But then, as Brit Nats Labour has more in common with the BNP than do Welsh or Cornish nationalists.

Keep at it Kernow! We're with you all the way!

Cornish independence is back on the menu - telegraph.co.uk

4 comments:

View from the Glen said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
cornubian said...

The Power Inquiry
Southbank House
Black Prince Road
London SE1 7SJ

19 of June 2007

Dear Sir/Madam

I am writing to ask for your aid and advice on understanding one of the constitutional issues within the UK. I am a Cornish UK citizen and my query relates to the relationship between the County of Cornwall and the Duchy of Cornwall. I believe it to be in the best interests of all residents of Cornwall including the Celtic Cornish ethnic minority to have a clear and complete description of the relationship between the Duchy and Cornwall. Obtaining this; however, has so far proved impossible. I have, in the past, contacted the Duchy of Cornwall, Cornwall County Council, the Department of Constitutional Affairs and other government offices, none of whom have been able or willing to provide a comprehensive answer that addresses all the facts.

You will note I have CC the question to a list of these government bodies once more and I would welcome any feedback they are prepared to give. If it would help I would happily request the information I require under the Freedom of Informations act, please let me know if you think this a good idea.

If we look at the Duchy of Cornwall website we see the following claim:

“The Duchy of Cornwall is a well-managed private estate which funds the public, charitable and private activities of The Prince of Wales and his family. The Duchy consists of around 54,764 hectares of land in 22 counties, mostly in the South West of England”

No mention of a relationship with the county and territory of Cornwall here or anywhere else on the site. Yet if we check the government website for Bona Vacantia we find the following:

“If the company's last registered office and the asset was in the Duchies of Cornwall or Lancashire its assets fall to be dealt with by Messrs Farrer & Co, Solicitors, of 66 Lincolns Inn Fields, London WC2A 3LH. The Duchy of Cornwall comprises the County of Cornwall. The Duchy of Lancaster comprises the Counties of Lancashire, Merseyside and parts of Greater Manchester, Cheshire and Cumbria. Further details as to the precise boundaries of the Duchy can be obtained from the Duchy Office, 1 Lancaster Place, Strand, London WC2E 7ED (tel: 020 7836 8277).”

It seems no coherent description of the Duchy is available. In the book "The Cornish Question" by Mark Sandford that was published by the Constitutional Unit, School of Public Policy, University College London in 2002 it states that -

"The existence of the Duchy of Cornwall was once of constitutional significance, but is now essentially a commercial organisation"

Considering that this commercial organisation is the largest landowner in Cornwall and claims to be nothing but a private estate and company, you would think it reasonable to expect there to be an official date of change-over from an official body of constitutional significance into a purely private commercial organisation.

In the Cornwall Submarine Mines Act 1858 it states that the Duchy of Cornwall is a 'territorial possession' of Britain.

So, sometime between 1858 and the present day, a territory of Britain transformed into a private commercial organization, when, if at all, did this happen?

A court case in 1828, A trial at Bar (Rowe v. Brenton) it was affirmed that everything connected with the Duchy is "of public interest", and "all the Kingdom should take notice". Quite rightly so considering the Duchy of Cornwall is a territory of Britain. Yet when Cornish MP Andrew George raised questions on the 16th June 1997 about the affairs of the Duchy he was told that there is an injunction in the House of Commons that prevents such questions being raised, how can this be?

In The Annual Accounts of the Duchy of Cornwall 1998, it states that `-

"Accounts are prepared in accordance with instructions issued by H.M. Treasury. The Duchy's primary function is to provide an income for present and future Dukes of Cornwall. The Duke is only entitled to the net income"

This means the Treasury deals with the Duchy as if it were a government department. So how can the Duke of Cornwall be the owner of a private estate?

In the 19th century the legal arguments of Duchy officials, defeated the Crown's aspirations of sovereignty of the Cornish foreshore. The Duchy of Cornwall argued that the Duke has sovereignty of Cornwall and not the Crown.

On behalf of the Duchy in its successful action against the Crown, which resulted in the Cornwall Submarine Mines Act of 1858, Sir George Harrison (Attorney General for Cornwall) makes this submission.

That Cornwall, like Wales, was at the time of the Conquest, and was subsequently treated in many respects as distinct from England.

That it was held by the Earls of Cornwall with the rights and prerogative of a County Palatine, as far as regarded the Seignory or territorial dominion.

That the Dukes of Cornwall have from the creation of the Duchy enjoyed the rights and prerogatives of a County Palatine, as far as regarded seignory or territorial dominion, and that to a great extent by Earls.

That when the Earldom was augmented into a Duchy, the circumstances attending to it's creation, as well as the language of the Duchy Charter, not only support and confirm natural presumption, that the new and higher title was to be accompanied with at least as great dignity, power, and prerogative as the Earls enjoyed, but also afforded evidence that the Duchy was to be invested with still more extensive rights and privileges.

The Duchy Charters have always been construed and treated, not merely by the Courts of Judicature, but also by the Legislature of the Country, as having vested in the Dukes of Cornwall the whole territorial interest and dominion of the Crown in and over the entire County of Cornwall.

This would suggest that Cornwall (the county) is a Duchy.

In my opinion these are questions that should be deemed important enough to be answered by someone in authority, whether that authority is a Government office, Cornwall County Council or Duchy of Cornwall office, after all, claiming a national territory and making it your own private business is no small affair - on a par with opening the newspaper this morning to find out that Richard Branson suddenly owns Gibraltar as a private business concern - and then reading that it was once a UK protectorate but now it belongs to Virgin - as the only official explanation for the change over. So it is to the Power Inquiry I turn to for aid and advice on this subject. The exact relationship of the Duchy to the territory of Cornwall and the influence the Duchy has within Cornwall are matters of clear public interest, please help in getting to the bottom of this constitutional puzzle.

Please do not hesitate to contact me by post, telephone or e-mail if you need any further information and I look forward to your response.

Yours sincerely

CC to the Duchy of Cornwall, The Department of Constitutional Affairs, Government Office of the South West, Cornwall County Council, Council of Europe, European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights

NO RESPONSE TO DATE

cornubian said...

Cornwall Council's Feb 2003 MORI Poll showed 55% in favour of a democratically-elected, fully-devolved regional assembly for Cornwall, (this was an increase from 46% in favour in a 2002 poll). Many English and other nationalities who have settled in Cornwall wish to see an assembly as some of these people identify closely with Cornwall and actually feel 'Cornish'. London, Wales and Scotland have devolved assemblies and are still part of the United Kingdom as well as the Isle of Man, Jersey and Guernsey - why not Cornwall ? The Cornish Assembly petition was signed by 50,000 people, which is the largest expression of popular support for devolved power in the whole of the United Kingdom and possibly Europe.

Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott and local government minister Ruth Kelly have been less than forthcoming to Mebyon Kernow under the Freedom of Information Act.

In 2005 Mebyon Kernow the party for Cornwall wrote to the then Office of the Deputy Prime Minister requesting copies of government documents prepared in the wake of the 50,000 signature Cornish Declaration which was passed to the Prime Minister on 12 December 2001.

Cllr Phil Rendle, MK's Deputy Leader (Campaigns) explained:

"We have long wondered what Tony Blair's government made of this magnificent expression of Cornish support for devolution. In 2005 we decided to use the Freedom of Information Act to find out. The result was disgraceful"

Even though, the ODPM is obliged under the Act to respond to requests promptly and in any event no later than 20 days, Mebyon Kernow's original request remains unacknowledged and unanswered. Last year, as part of their celebration of the fifth anniversary of the Declaration, MK resumed its demand, this time to Ruth Kelly's new Department for Communities and Local Government. So far, two letters have been received, although no information has yet been released and no explanation or apology given for failing to respond to the 2005 request.

"Crucially" says Cllr Rendle, "the DCLG have admitted that 'The Department holds the information you are seeking' - but getting it into the public domain is proving difficult to say the least!"

The two letters are peppered with phrases such as 'qualified exemptions', 'public interest tests' and the most tortuous reasons are given not to yield this information without delay:

"Your request, however, raises complex public interest considerations which must be analysed before we can come to a decision on releasing the information, consideration must be given as to whether or not the public interest in withholding the information requested outweighs the public interest in disclosing it, [the] balance needs to be struck between disclosing sufficient information to allow informed debate and protecting the space within which ministers are advised and formulate policy"

The second letter from Ruth Kelly's department pontificates:

"The application of the public interest balance in relation to this exemption is particularly complex. The public interest both in disclosure of some information and in the withholding of other information lies in what might broadly described as good government! "

Phil Rendle asks:

"We are just trying to find out what Government made of Cornwall's 50,000-signature petition. Why all this prevarication? Why all this legalistic mumbo-jumbo? If government holds the information [we] are seeking, why not release it to the people of Cornwall. We have received two stalling letters, but we will continue to press until all the information is released"

The Cornish Democrat also wrote to the Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG) requesting all documentation produced by the government on receiving the petition of 50,000. To date the DCLG has released some but not all the documentation choosing instead to withhold information under section 36(2) (b) of the Freedom of Information act. What do the government have to hide? Who was consulted and what did they say? The Cornish Democrat urges all, who consider the Cornish publics right to know more important than the embarrassment of a few politicians, to contact the DCLG and make a request under the FOI act and then to pursue this as far as possible.

The Cornish Democrat: http://thecornishdemocrat.blogspot.com/

DCLG: http://www.communities.gov.uk/

The Information Commissioner's Office: http://www.ico.gov.uk/

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