Regional Flags: Driving Licences and Number Plates

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 5:13 pm on 19th April 2017.

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Photo of Derek Thomas Derek Thomas Conservative, St Ives 5:13 pm, 19th April 2017

I am sorry, Mr Nuttall, but I was stunned by the speech of my hon. Friend Scott Mann. I thank you for the opportunity to speak and I thank my hon. Friend for securing this debate. We share an office and have discussed this subject many times. His constituency is North Cornwall, while mine is the furthest west it is possible to get, and as he said, our constituents say they would like to see flags on driving licences and number plates.

I know that the Government are ambitious for local areas and are keen to devolve more responsibility to them. They want local areas such as Cornwall to seize the day and take charge of their own destiny. They want to promote regional strength and identity, and of course they want to make a success of exiting the EU. Cornwall is a place of significant interest. Those of us who live there are immensely proud of our heritage, our culture, our natural environment and how we work together as a community to help and care for one another. We know that is true, and every year tens of thousands flock down to see us and covet all that Cornwall is and stands for. Cornwall is a special place in the UK, and I make no apology for asking for special treatment from time to time. My hon. Friend was very generous in describing the various flags that could go on licences or number plates. As far as I am concerned, Cornwall would be a perfect pilot for this. I am ambitious for Cornwall to lead the way in having the St Piran’s flag on number plates and licences.

Cornwall wants to be treated fairly, but we also want more attention than we perhaps get at the moment. On this occasion, our request is straightforward and in the gift of the UK Government, once we leave the EU. My hon. Friend and I are simply arguing that Cornish residents, if they choose, can celebrate Cornish identity by placing our Cornish flag, the St Piran’s flag, on driving licences when they are issued or replaced, and also on vehicle registration plates.

As my hon. Friend said, since 2009 it has been legal to display the Union flag, the cross of St George, the Scottish saltire and the red dragon of Wales on vehicle number plates. Extending that right to Cornish residents and to other regions would be welcomed by my constituents and others elsewhere. Permitting motorists to display the flag of St Piran on their vehicles is a relatively simple yet effective way of enabling people to proclaim their Cornish identity, and I know that many residents in the county would be proud to do so. With modern technology, that cannot be beyond the wit of man. Any costs incurred could easily be recovered from the charges already payable for driving licences and number plates.

I am keen not to prolong this debate more than necessary, so to conclude, Cornwall is a unique and special place. I am unbelievably proud to represent the far south-west of the county. Once Britain has left the EU, there will be more opportunity to safeguard and promote our Cornish identity. Allowing such measures on licences and registration plates provides a tangible way in which a local area can celebrate its heritage, culture and identity. I believe that it would be a great way to celebrate the new Great Britain that we want, post-membership of the EU.

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