Monday, 28 September 2009

The Long Road to Autonomy

The "Cornish conspiracy theory" is claimed to be a long-running conspiracy by the English establishment to deprive Cornish people of their rights, identity and autonomy. It is claimed that the main reason why the Cornish are being denied recognition of their identity is to prevent any public debate or official enquiry into the constitutional status of Cornwall regarding the Duchy of Cornwall, sometimes referred to as the "Cornish Question". Cornish historians point to the fact that in 1508 the 'Charter of Pardon' was granted by Henry VII to give Cornwall a legal right to its own Parliament with the power of veto over acts, statutes, laws, etc, passed by the Westminster government. These rights were granted in perpetuity and cannot be lawfully rescinded, but today are ignored by the UK government.

In 1858 the Cornish Foreshore Case (a case of arbitration between the Crown and the Duchy of Cornwall) confirmed that the Duke of Cornwall, was considered to be a quasi-sovereign within the Duchy of Cornwall territory (Cornwall), but today the Duchy of Cornwall describes itself as a private estate which funds the public, charitable and private activities of the Prince of Wales and his family. It is claimed that at some point after 1858, the officers of the Duchy, with the support of members of the UK Government, developed a plan to portray the Duchy of Cornwall as a 'private estate'. More recently in 2007 the Cornish were the only UK ethnic/cultural group and indigenous minority to be specifically mentioned for exclusion from the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities by the British government.
The Crown Proceedings Act 1947 Section 40, 2g, gives the heir to the throne, the Duke of Cornwall, the authority to "control or otherwise intervene in proceedings that affect his rights, property and profits".

The 1971 Kilbrandon Report into the British constitution recommended that, when referring to Cornwall - "official sources should cite the Duchy not the County" - this was suggested in recognition of its constitutional position.
In 1977 Plaid Cymru MP Dafydd Wigley received confirmation in Parliament that the Stannators right to veto Westminster legislation is still valid.

In July 1997 Andrew George MP attempted to raise a question concerning the Duchy of Cornwall in the House of Commons but was prevented from doing so by an injunction that disallows MPs raising any questions in Parliament that are in any way related to the Duchy. The injunction prevents MPs asking questions regarding the "role, rights, powers and privileges" of the Dukes of Cornwall in Cornwall - reference Tamar Bridge Act 1998, s.41 and letter from the House of Commons Library to Andrew George MP, dated 16 July 1997. On 12 December 2001 a petition with 50,000 signatures was presented to 10 Downing Street in favour of more autonomy for Cornwall - a Cornish Assembly - so far this has not been implemented by the Government. In June 2005 the government allocated £80,000 per year for three years of direct central government funding to the Cornish language. Although pleased with this development, Cornish language speakers point to the fact that during the same period for example the Ulster-Scots language is being allocated £1,000,000 per year of direct government funding.

The National History Curriculum officially starts with the Roman period, rather than earlier civilisations without their own written records, such as the Celts.
In 2007 it was announced by the Office for National Statistics that a Cornish tick box would be refused on the next 2011 Census because "insufficient requirement for the data had been expressed by Census users" and "national identity and ethnicity questions will contain tick boxes only for the largest groups*. This is despite the fact that other groups such as Irish Travellers for example are recognised on the form and the Cornish had previously been allocated the ethnic code of '06' for the 2001 Census - ref. United Kingdom Census 2001 Ethnic Codes.

There has been official Government (HM Treasury) approval for the leasing of Cornish heritage sites such as Tintagel Castle by the commercial Duchy of Cornwall to the state subsidised organisation known as English Heritage. On January 18, 2002, at Truro Crown Court, three members of the Cornish Stannary Parliament attempted to raise issues regarding the history of the Duchy of Cornwall, but were prevented from doing so when a Public Interest Immunity certificate (gagging order) was presented to the court by the Crown Prosecution Service.

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