Census (Return Particulars and Removal of Penalties) Bill [Lords]

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 2:53 pm on 17th July 2019.

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Photo of Steve Double Steve Double Conservative, St Austell and Newquay 2:53 pm, 17th July 2019

I am grateful to my hon. Friend and Cornish colleague for making the point very well that the Government made this commitment in 2014. They have been criticised by the Council of Europe for not living up to that commitment and obligation under the framework convention. This is a very simple and straightforward way for the Government to go some way to rectifying that and fulfilling their commitments.

By saying that the matter of Cornish identity is primarily a geographical issue that is restricted to Cornwall, and that there will be an awareness campaign in Cornwall, we are effectively treating the Cornish around the country in the same way as Mary and Joseph were treated 2,000 years ago. We are saying, “In order to identify yourself as Cornish, you really should live in Cornwall and return to your homeland.” That is completely unacceptable, and it is definitely not equality of recognition for the Cornish, as the Government promised and made a clear commitment to in 2014.

Any argument that to extend this opportunity to the Cornish would open the floodgates for other minority groups who are also seeking some sort of recognition is, I believe, misdirected. The Cornish people’s claim to national minority status in the UK is unique. We are the only group who have been given this status by the Council of Europe, which the UK Government have accepted and endorsed. I believe that the unique claim for the Cornish means that we should be given equality with the rest of the UK.

Do people today still desire to identify themselves with their homeland? If so, should they be given equal opportunities in the forthcoming census to do so? Should that right be enshrined in legislation? I believe that the answer to all three questions is very much yes, and I trust that we can use the Bill to establish the right of national identity within the UK in law.