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15.2.08

Modernising the Magna Carta? Why not start in the bottom left hand corner?

No new Cornish constitutional accommodation without consultation.

Jack Straw gave a speech at the George Washington University about the UK's and USA's constitutional heritage and what a British Bill of Rights and Responsibilities might look like. The talk was entitled "Modernising the Magna Carta"; full article here.

The Independent has also produced an article on the United Kingdoms constitution called; Why doesn't the UK have a written constitution, and does it matter? In the article Nigel Morris writes "Britain's constitution has developed in haphazard fashion, building on common law, case law, historical documents, Acts of Parliament and European legislation". Haphazard seems just a little euphemistic to me but anyway what would this constitutional arrangement look like to the people of Cornwall if written down and how would our Cornish Duchy figure in it?

If written, it would include:- The Duke of Cornwall shall be the heir apparent. He shall have Cornwall as a Duchy and the right to control or intervene in proceedings affecting his rights, property or profits. Within Cornwall, He shall have the right to the King’s Writ and Summons of Exchequer, intestate estates, bona vacantia, foreshore, treasure trove, the stannaries, gold and silver and Tintagel Castle (amongst other properties). The Duke and the Duchy of Cornwall shall have the right to a Trial at Bar, crown immunity from prosecution and exemption from the Land Registration, planning and Freedom of Information Acts. H.M. Treasury shall regulate as required by the Duchy of Cornwall Management Acts 1863-1982.

Doesn't much look like the constitution of a modern and egalitarian democracy does it? The situation, as it stands today, has this feudal relic giving the heir to the throne unaccountable and undemocratic powers to the prejudice of the indigenous people of Cornwall as revealed here by the Cornish Stannary Parliament.

Does the government, does anyone, simply suggest codifying that which exists into a written constitution? Would anybody actually accept a constitution which flies in the face of such internationally recognised human rights standards as a guarantee of equality before the law? Why indeed do we put up with this situation now?

A new constitution will have to tackle the 'national' question in an equitable manner for all the constituent peoples of the UK as well as its crown dependencies and protectorates, but it would, of course, not be the first time that this question has been treated in the constitutional construction of the English and later UK state.

One previous settlement, whilst provideing the heir to the English throne with an income thus relieving the English tax payer of the burden, recognised Cornwall's distinct position in the emerging state. The Duchy is still with us today and is one of the 'haphazard' developments that governs us in a much less than transparent way.

Some have suggested that the process of writing a British constitution would be cathartic if conducted in a genuinely inclusive fashion. I totally agree and would add that the Cornish public should be active participants in deciding the future of the Duchy, Cornwall and its constitutional position within any future state.

Following Cornwall's popular call for devolution and the growing celebration of its identity surely removing its last vestiges of constitutional recognition without public consultation would be as unjust as maintaining that which exists.

A just and modern accommodation of Cornwall demands an open and inclusive discussion with the Cornish people, something that, to date, we have been denied. Simply trying to force this round British territorial peg into a square English county hole is never going to work and so it shouldn't.

6 comments:

fake consultant said...

of greater interest than exactly what rights and responsibilities might exist for uk citizens is the question of how a new relationship between crown, parliament, and people could be developed.

do the people wish to take the reins of power in the uk, or will the current arrangement remain?

this question matters if the people wish to take this opportunity to make the government subservient to the citizenry; and it's a question i never hear addressed in the debate.

cornubian said...

Agreed; sovereignty should be with the people and I would ague that sovereignty lies with the Cornish people within the Duchy.

fake consultant said...

your response raises it's own interesting question: if the people of the duchy are to be the soverign, what would replace the duke if autonomy were to be obtained?

a parliamentary system, absent the crown, is working in many countries; and obviously the legislative and executive branch model works in the several u.s. states which are of similar size to cornwall as well.

that said, all the former commonwealth countries i could think of (south africa, hong kong, india) that have abandoned the monarchy have adopted the parliamentary model; and if i was to guess i would think cornwall might do the same.

cornubian said...

A federal or con-federal arrangment. I prefer to see Cornwall with all the soverign power then choosing to devolve power upward to pan British Isles pan European structures.

Laurelian said...

You may be interested in the book "How to Lie With Maps". I'm not sure where you're pulling this from but Ireland as a COUNTRY, rather than a geographical description exists only from the 1500s. Wales did not exist until 1216. While Cornwall was definetely part of the Kingdom of England at the Norman Conquest of 1066 and is included in the Doomsday Book as so. It was one of the earliest places in the Unification of England as part of the Kingdom of Wessex. Cornish nationalism is simply based on fantasty and manipulation of history.

cornubian said...

If it was only one map maybe you would have a point but the historical facts are far greater in number than that. Not only do many more maps exist but countless references to Cornwall and the Cornish also.

Cornwall was clearly a protectorate of the Kingdom of Wessex / England the state, but it certainly wasn't part of or considered part of the country of England. But if you don't believe me perhaps, as a monarchist, you'll believe the Duchy of Cornwall when they say:

"In conclusion, it is submitted that the facts and authorities before referred to are sufficient to establish,-

1st. That Cornwall, like Wales, was at the time of the Conquest, and was subsequently treated in many respects, as distinct from England.

2nd. That it was held by the Earls of Cornwall with the rights and prerogatives of a County Palatine, as far as regarded the Seignory or territorial dominion.

3rd. 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 greater extent than had been enjoyed by the Earls.

4th. That when the Earldom was augmented into a Duchy, the circumstances attending its creation, as well as the language of the Duchy Charter, not only support and confirm the natural presumption, that the new and higher title was to be accompanied with at least as great dignity, power, and prerogative as the Earls had enjoyed, but also afford evidence that the Duchy was to be invested with still more extensive rights and privileges.

And lastly. That 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.

Duchy of Cornwall,
Somerset House,
May, 1855."