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MPs are calling for a Cornish tick box

MPs are calling for a Cornish tick box

Published by Sarah Yeoman at 6:51am 7th May 2020.

Written by Richard Whitehouse, Local Democracy Reporter

Two of Cornwall’s MPs have failed in their bid to convince a Government minister provide a tick box on the next census so that people can identify as Cornish.

In a debate in the House of Commons this afternoon about the planned 2021 census Steve Double, MP for St Austell and Newquay, and Cherilyn Mackrory, MP for Truro and Falmouth, made impassioned speeches in favour of a Cornish tick box.

But their pleas fell on deaf ears with the minister Chloe Smith saying there was no justification for a Cornish tick box on a national survey. She said people would still be able to use the write-in box to identify themselves as Cornish.

Mrs Mackrory said that while she was not Cornish herself she understood the need for a tick box on the census and the desire for people to identify as Cornish.

She highlighted that six years ago when the Cornish were recognised as a national minority by the Government under the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities (FCNM) it was stated that the Cornish would have the same status as other Celtic identities in the UK – the Welsh, Scottish and Irish.

The Conservative MP said it would be “significant” if the Government backed that up by including a tick box on the census.

“It would be a huge regret that the Cornish would be the only national minority that would not have a tick box,” she said.

And she said if there was a tick box then it would help identify more people as Cornish, in a similar way that the Welsh have been recognised.

In 2001 when there was no tick box for the Welsh 14% of people in Wales identified as Welsh but in 2011 when there was a tick box the percentage increased to 67%.

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Mrs Mackrory also highlighted that young people in Cornwall also recognise themselves as Cornish and stated that all 123 members of Cornwall Council voted in favour of a tick box for the Cornish on the census.

She was supported by Plaid Cymru MP Hywel Williams who said he and his party were in favour of a tick box for the Cornish.

He said: “It will not only allow them to feel represented but will give us a correct result for the Cornish identity in 2021.”

Mr Double said the recognition of the Cornish under the FCNM had provided a “sense of optimism” that “the struggle was over and we were told we would get recognition”.

But he said that optimism was dashed and “the struggle has never felt more important”.

He said: “It is disappointing and hugely frustrating that a tick box for the Cornish is not in the census.”

Mr Double said the Office for National Statistics (ONS) had failed to recognise that the Cornish identity is not a local issue and that there are people across the UK who identify as Cornish.

He added: “I am sad to say that the ONS simply don’t get us. Every objection they have raised has been answered.

“We have demonstrated time and time again the unique case for the Cornish and it is a unique case.”

The Conservative MP said the Government had an obligation to recognise the Cornish as a national minority and so should include a tick box.

Chloe Smith, minister of state for the Cabinet Office, said the Government “knows and understands the points made by Cornish members”.

But she said it “doesn’t justify the inclusion of the Cornish nationality on a nationwide survey”.

She said the Government and the ONS would be promoting the write-in option in Cornwall and across the UK.

“That will be beyond the boundaries of Cornwall and will be available anywhere in the country. It will promote beyond Cornwall the ability to self promote as Cornish.”

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