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A Constitutional Convention for the UK

Over 100 MPs have now signed up to an Early Day Motion in support of the proposed Citizens Convention Bill which, if enacted, will commit the Government to establishing a constitutional convention in order to involve people from all sections of society in improving the way the United Kingdom is governed. 

The Bill has cross-party support and we urge the Government to bring it forward as a matter of priority. Gordon Brown has indicated that he wants to build a national consensus on democratic renewal but he needs to go much further than the glorified public consultation exercises that are citizens' juries, where the agenda is pre-determined by the Government and the outcomes are studiously ignored if they don't fit in with what they want to hear.

The Cornish need to make sure their voice is heard.

Will the Duchy of Cornwall come under the spotlight or will it slip past the law once again? Will a guarantee of equality before the law, a standard of international human rights, be on the table? Will the government take a fresh look at Cornish devolution?


CONSEU meeting promotes democracy and human rights

Aren Grimshaw newly elected Assistant General Secretary of the Celtic League recently attended a further meeting of CONSEU.

The latest conference, entitled European Stateless Nations and the Reform of International Institutions, was organised by CIEMEN (The Centre for Ethnic Minorities and Nations), based in Catalonia.

The conference, which is now in its 7th year as CONSEU (Conferencefor Nations without a State), is held each year to look at the way in which nations existing inside recognised state borders often have their interests marginalised by political institutions to the detriment of local interests.

This year's conference focused on the establishment of international institutions after the last world war, and how their creation served the interests of a specific group of states at that particular moment in history. Through a series of speeches and discussions the conference looked at how reform of institutions such as the UN, European Union and International Courts, would ensure all citizens within wider states had their interests represented fairly. Speakers at the conference included political and legal figures from across Europe, including contributions from respected lawyers; Jann Chooq and Kevyan Sayer and Scottish Parliament Convener / Rural Affairsand Environment Committee member, Roseanna Cunningham MSP.

Aren Grimshaw said, "It was great to share knowledge with a series of leading experts and delegates from other unrepresented nations across Europe. In my Celtic League role I am proud to represent both the interests of my home nation, Cornwall, as well as the wider interests of the Celtic Nations of Ireland, Scotland, Mannin, Brittany and Wales. "In coming together with other nations across Europe we had a chance to celebrate the diversity of our cultures and look at ways in which we can increase our citizen participation in democratic politics. Unfortunately, it is often the case that our interests are ignored by our own states, and it is only in looking at reform options on a wider scale that greater participation for all people can be achieved."

The conference was hosted by the regional Valle d'Aosta Government, an autonomous region within Italy. Delegates included representatives from Sardinia, Corsica, Galicia, The Basque Country, Brittany, Aosta Valley, Catalonia, Scotland, Wales and Cornwall.

J B Moffatt
Director of Information Celtic League

The Centre for Ethnic Minorities and Nations


Back from the dead

HOW many nations are there in the United Kingdom? Taken from the Economist.

Most people, including most of its residents, will say four—England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Yet some inhabitants of Cornwall, a county in England's south-western tip, think the number should be five, arguing that Cornwall should be treated as a separate nation.

As evidence they cite first their county's remoteness: bounded by the sea and separated from the rest of England by the river Tamar. Then there is Cornwall's cultural heritage, in particular the Cornish language, a Celtic tongue closely related to Breton and Welsh. It was dead for centuries, with the last fluent speaker thought to have perished in 1777. But thanks to a revival movement that started in the 1920s, several hundred people speak it today. In 2002 the government recognised Cornish as one of Britain's official minority languages, alongside Welsh, three varieties of Scottish, Irish Gaelic and Manx.

But reviving a dead language is a tricky business, especially when all there is to go on is fragmentary written records. Disagreements among experts have led to schism. Depending on how you choose to count, says Ray Chubb, the secretary of Agan Tavas (“Our Language”), there are either three or four distinct dialects in use today.

After years of often bad-tempered debate, a group of experts met on October 14th to decide on a single, official version of the language. They proposed a compromise, with bits taken from several of the existing dialects, to be considered later this month by the Cornish Language Partnership, a state-funded outfit charged with promoting the language. That was politically wise, since it avoided slighting advocates for any particular dialect. But, notes one observer wryly, it means that until they have had time to learn the new words, none of the existing Cornish speakers will be fluent in their new tongue.

Nevertheless, say supporters, deciding on an official form of the language is worth some short-term pain. The language appears to be spreading, although no one is sure of the precise numbers. A government report in 2000 put the number of fluent speakers at around 300; many more know at least a few phrases. Having one canonical version will make it easier to proselytise, especially in schools: revivalists hope to offer a set of Cornish textbooks to pupils from next year. And, says Mr Chubb, it will mean more money from the government.

Militant supporters hope eventually to emulate Wales, where Welsh is compulsory for schoolchildren and in many government jobs. The wildest dreamers foresee a day when Cornwall is granted independence from England. Officially, as recipients of state funding, Cornish boosters profess no opinion on the subject. “But,” muses Mr Chubb, “learning the language inevitably raises awareness of Cornish history.

The Cornish Democrat would like to ask why the UK media never touch another argument for the home nation status of Cornwall?

The fact that Cornwall is a Duchy which exists outside the law of England and Wales seems to slip their minds.


The Ministry of Truth

Today's the day! Adam Price's Bill, Elected Representatives Prohibition of Deception, is being tabled in the House of Commons this afternoon.

You can support the bill by signing the Downing Street petition.You can also ask your MP if he or she will support the Bill by entering your postcode here and e-mailing them directly (it's very simple to do). You can see if your MP's signed up by visiting the MP scoreboard on our website. So far 19 MPs have confirmed their support:A handful of Lib DemsHalf a dozen Labour MPsA sprinkling of independents and Plaid Cymru MPsBut yet no love from the Tories... Write to them and ask why. It takes just a couple of mouseclicks to change politics...


The Ministry of Truth.

When will the Duchy come clean though?


Cornish Ethnicity In Our Schools

PLASC Survey Ethnic Data 2006-07

Primary School
Cornish 30%
British 64%
Cornish 26%
British 66%
Secondary School
Cornish 24%
British 70%
Cornish 20%
British 72%
Special School
Cornish 44%
British 54%
Cornish 37%
British 59%
All Schools
Cornish 27%
British 66%
Cornish 24%
British 68%

Bringing the Duchy of Cornwall within the law

Bringing the Duchy of Cornwall Within the Law from the Cornish Stannary Parliament.

The Stannaries are claimed as the property of the Duke of Cornwall by charters. The first of 1337 was published in 1978 as Statutes in Force, Constitutional law. The second and third Duchy of Cornwall charters of 1337 and 1338 give the Duke the powers of: “The King’s Writ and Summons of Exchequer” throughout Cornwall. These powers of the Duke of Cornwall represent the powers of government retained as a result of the English conquest of Cornwall, c.1000 AD. By the Cornwall Submarine Mines Act 1858, the foreshore of Cornwall was awarded to the Duke as “part of the soil and territorial possessions of the Duchy of Cornwall”. We note that territorial possessions can not be private possessions. Research reveals that the public spirited Crown Estate provides cultural support and housing for the public everywhere in the U.K. except Cornwall. The Duchy of Cornwall is the analogous body in Cornwall but, in a departure from its historical role, now claims to be a private estate with exemption from the Freedom of Information Act 2000, clearly, a stratagem designed to deter investigation into Duchy history and Cornish history.

Lord Coke, in “The Princes Case” 1606, ruled that the transfer of property could not be exercised by charter alone. Whereupon, he contended that only the three Duchy of Cornwall Charters were to be classified as Acts of Parliament. There is no entry in the Parliamentary records between 1330 and 1340 to substantiate this exceptional claim. It is possible that the claim of the Imperial Parliament to ‘sovereignty’ is asserted in order to legitimise English bias as a right to any claim to the property of the subject made by the Crown. The present powers of the Duke of Cornwall in respect of control over Acts of Parliament are to be found in the standing Orders of the Westminster Parliament No. 7.178. The powers of the Duke of Cornwall to “control or intervene” in the judicial process are to be found in the Crown Proceedings Act 1947, section 40 (2g). Even so, the unrepealed Royal Mines Act 1688 specifically states that no tin mine shall be a royal mine. This Act has been ignored by successive Dukes of Cornwall in Cornwall. In Cornwall, the Duke is Lord Paramount, and is entitled to claim intestate estates and bona vacantia to accrue mineral rights without reference to Stannary law. Stannary law was, however, the basis upon which the Duchy Charters originally laid claim to the ownership of the minerals of Cornwall.

Lord Coke, in his ‘Case of the Stannaries’1606, does concede: “base mines (includes tin) belong to the subject but the tin in Cornwall belongs to the King although now a reason cannot easily be rendered”. The tax (coinage) imposed by the Duchy on Cornish tin production was at twice the rate applicable to that of Devon which comprised only 5% of total UK tin production. Lord Coke’s 4th Inst. 33 reveals the English custom of a double tax on foreign produce and G.R.Lewis in ‘The Stannaries’ ascribes the difference to the fact that the Cornish were Celts and the people of Devon, Anglo-Saxon, part of the ruling English national majority. Before 1832, English law permitted the Duke of Cornwall to create 44 constituencies in Cornwall for his ‘Prince’s Party’ at a time when Scotland had only 45 M.P.s.

Clearly, these otherwise unjustifiable manipulations of the law were acceptable to English people then, just as currently, the absence from English law of the world wide constitutionally enforceable right to equality before the law is accepted to protect the Duchy of Cornwall from an effective legal challenge. The Duke of Cornwall acquired a fortune from Cornish tin, and thus, English people were, and are still, absolved from sharing the responsibility of paying, through taxation, for their enjoyment of the privilege of having an heir to the throne.

Do you agree that the Duke and Duchy of Cornwall should be made subject to equality before the law and that English people should begin, after over six centuries, to pay for the maintenance of the heir to the throne? In addition, do you accept that Cornish people have the right to recover ownership of their mineral resources from the Duchy of Cornwall and to re-instate their traditional Stannary Parliament under the provisions of international law?

September 2007