The parliamentary bill that proposes to redraw the electoral boundary map and launch a referendum on changing the voting system has passed its second reading. The bill was backed by 328 MPs, while 269 voted against.
The current plans for boundary changes could mean that Cornwall will have to share a parliamentary seat with part of Devon. This is because Cornwall’s population is too high for just 5 MPs, but too low to warrant having 6 MPs.
All six Cornish MPs have stated their opposition to a Devonwall constituency, however they all voted in favour of the bill on Monday.
South East Cornwall’s MP Sheryll Murray mentioned the case for Cornwall in the debate before the vote:
Does my hon. Friend agree that it would be extremely unfair to expect one of the Cornish constituencies-his, mine, or one of the others-to cross the historic Tamar border that we already have?
George Eustice, MP for Camborne and Redruth replied:
My hon. Friend makes an absolutely valid point. Cornwall is a special case. It is not just a normal county – it is a duchy. That is certainly something that should be considered in Committee.
Andrew George, the MP for St Ives, has told the BBC that Cornish MPs are planning to prevent the creation of a Devonwall constituency as the bill passes through the next stage of parliamentary procedure, the committee phase.
This is Cornwall has reported that Sheryll Murray said she will tell deputy prime minister Nick Clegg that Cornwall has a “unique and specific identity” and that he should consider “Cornwall as a fifth region” alongside England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Meanwhile, councillors at Cornwall Council have almost unanimously agreed a motion to lobby the government to take Cornwall’s border into consideration. The motion will be sent, along with a covering letter, to deputy prime minister Nick Clegg, to the Political and Constitutional Reform Committee and to all 650 MPs.
Keep Cornwall Whole
A campaign group has been set up to oppose a Devonwall constituency. Keep Cornwall Whole is headed by the mayor of Saltash, Adam Killeya, and is supported by MPs, councillors and representatives from community and cultural groups from both Cornwall and Devon.
The campaign group wrote to the Political and Constitutional Reform Committee and to all 650 MPs before the bill’s second reading.
The letter said: “The Bill, if unaltered, would mean that Cornwall would inevitably have at least one cross-border seat with Devon, despite its exceptionally distinct Celtic history and culture, unique geography as a peninsula bounded by the Tamar River, special constitutional position, and a specific economic profile that merits EU Convergence Funding. This is something that doesn’t work for either Cornwall or Devon.”
Over 600 people have joined Keep Cornwall Whole’s Facebook page.