Parliamentary Questions: Status of Duchy.
Following the 2008 publication of Scat t’Larrups?, which exposed the UK Government/Duchy Administration ’private estate’ deception, Andrew George MP raised three questions in Parliament. The clear intention was to try and force government to disclose the real status of the Duchy of Cornwall and consequent upon that, a measure of the suppressed constitutional differences between Cornwall and England.
Although Michael Wills MP is Minister of State for the Ministry of Justice, this false assertion, which flies in the face of historical evidence, established practice and the government’s own record in respect of passing legislation, lies at the core of the joint UK Government/Duchy Administration deception. A symbiotically enacted pattern of activity perpetrated to retain the Duke of Cornwall’s sovereign rights while at the same time gerrymandering away the constitutional status of the territory that gives rise to those rights.
This Ministerial falsehood deliberately conceals the true constitutional status of Cornwall. The intention is to lend support to the manner by which the Westminster Parliament and UK judiciary treat the Duchy as a constitutionally distinct and entirely separate arm of the Crown, or government, while simultaneously maintaining outwardly for public consumption the fabrication that the Duchy is a mere ‘private estate’.
To even begin to suggest that the Duchy of Cornwall is a ‘private estate’ is to turn the irrevocable facts of history on their head. For it was the Attorney General to the Duchy of Cornwall himself who, during the 1855-57 foreshore dispute, deployed a multitude of statutes, charters and legal cases [which are deliberately kept out of our schools and other places of learning] to successfully argue that the Duchy of Cornwall is a largely autonomous, constitutionally distinct entity co-terminous with the administrative area of Cornwall. In other words, a Crown dependency.
“The Duchy Charters have always been construed and treated not merely by the Courts of Judicature but also by the Legislature of the Country as having vested in the Dukes of Cornwall the whole territorial interest and dominion of the Crown in and over the entire County of Cornwall.”
[Right Honourable Thomas Pemberton Leigh, Chancellor of the Duchy of Cornwall, opening statement, May 1855]
This position was restated by the subsequent Cornwall Submarine Mines Act 1858 which confirmed that the entire foreshore of Cornwall was indeed included within the existing ‘soil and territorial possessions’ of the Duchy. This state of affairs was emphatically endorsed by the 1969-73 Royal Commission on the Constitution [Kilbrandon Report] which recommended that the phrase ‘Duchy of Cornwall’ be used by UK government bodies to re-emphasise the “territorial integrity of Cornwall”. And today government legal advisors Treasury Solicitors confirm that, “The Duchy of Cornwall comprises the County of Cornwall” (1).
Moreover, the estates to which the Government Minister alludes to were merely, by the Charter of 17th March 1337 [which remains on the statute book as Constitutional Law 10], “forever annexed and united to the said Duchy”. In other words, the estates DO NOT by themselves constitute the Duchy of Cornwall. They were simply at that time made part of the pre-existing Duchy.
It is therefore wholly incorrect and totally misleading for the Minister to state, suggest or otherwise imply in Parliament that the name of this territorial Honour is assigned exclusively to the estates that were later added to, and since that time form only part of, the possessions of the Duke of Cornwall in right of his Duchy of Cornwall.
Under UK law it’s not a crime for a Government Minister to lie to Parliament, even when delivering a prepared written statement asserting knowingly false information in his or her capacity as an executive officer of the government (as in this case). When Tony Blair gave his Labour Party Leadership acceptance speech he stated, “I would expect Ministers in a Government of mine to resign if they lie to Parliament” (2).
People should be aware that this is not an isolated incident, for when it comes to suppressing the rights and status of the Cornish people, the practice of Government Ministers lying to Parliament is both widespread and systematic. For example, a variety of Government Ministers have repeatedly stated in Parliament that only groups recognised under the UK Race Relations Act 1976 can be included within the Council of Europe Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities. Government say that as the Cornish were not RRA case-law recognised, they were excluded for this reason and statements to this effect were made by Ministers to Parliament on 22 Oct 1998, 7 Feb 2007, 27 Feb 2007 and 6 March 2007.
Yet as the UK Commission for Racial Equality pointed out, the government had for a number of years knowingly included groups that are not case-law recognised within the Convention (3). Although Mike O’Brien MP was, on the 22 Oct 1998, the actual Minister telling untruths to Parliament, he went on to become Solicitor General for England and Wales. In deed, it was O’Brien who held that post when civil rights group ‘Cornwall 2000’ conducted its Framework Convention High Court legal battle with Government Minister Ruth Kelly. Kelly went on to commit a Contempt of Court by repeating the same ‘case-law recognition’ falsehood to the High Court (4). As Solicitor General during the time of the case, O’Brien’s role was to advise Government Minister Ruth Kelly on the law.
Although in the above Parliamentary response, the Minister of State for the Ministry of Justice denies that the Duchy of Cornwall is part of the Crown or government of these islands, nearly all legislation emanating from his UK government treats the Duchy not as a ‘private estate’, but as part of the Crown.
I have cited just four Acts of Parliament. I could easily cite 100 more and all would lead the impartial observer to draw the same conclusion. In practice, and in spite of repeated Ministerial assertions to the contrary, the Duchy of Cornwall is perceived and treated by Parliament and the judiciary not as a ‘private estate’, but as part of the Crown and hence government of these islands. This current situation reflects the position previously articulated by the Attorney General to the Duchy of Cornwall in 1855, which itself was based on a plethora of irrevocable historical evidence.
However, for political and ideological reasons, the constitutional history of Cornwall is something the UK Government and Duchy administrations deny all knowledge of and neither party are prepared to discuss, or even admit knowledge of, the unprecedented case of arbitration which gave rise to the pivotal Cornwall Submarine Mines Act 1858.
Although the 1858 Act arose out of a dispute involving tin and copper mines, item 6 of the Limitation Act [shown above] states that all gold and silver mines belong to the Queen or the Duke. This follows on from the ‘Case of Mines’ (5) which determined that all gold and silver mines belong to the Crown [government] as of right. Moreover, when a question was raised in Parliament as to who has the prerogative right to gold and silver mines, the Hansard documented government response was, “the Crown not only claims mines of gold and silver, but also the necessary easements for working them” (6). Therefore the Queen in right of her Crown and the Duke in right of his Duchy jointly constitute the Crown, or government, of these islands.
Under Parliamentary Standing Orders, legislation pertaining to the Duchy of Cornwall requires the express consent of the Duke prior to the Bill becoming law (7). The fact that Parliament cannot in all circumstances freely legislate in respect of the Duchy of Cornwall demonstrates not only Parliament’s jurisdictional limitations in this respect, but also the Duchy of Cornwall’s quite separate, very high, status. Although laws passed by Parliament today always extend to England and Wales, they do not extend to the Duchy of Cornwall unless the text expressly states that they do, and then only with the prior express approval of the Duke in his capacity as the de jure ruler of Cornwall.
No other manager of a ‘private estate’ has the right to veto Westminster legislation. The Duke’s brother Andrew the Duke of York owns a private estate, but he cannot veto legislation. Neither can his sister, Princess Anne of Edinburgh. Only the Queen and the Duke of Cornwall possess this high prerogative. Is the Queen also sovereign of a mere ‘private estate’?
On 29th March 2007 Andrew George MP asked Government. “What distinct constitutional status applies to Cornwall or the Duchy of Cornwall which does not apply to England?” (8). The Minster of State in her Parliamentary response refused to address the issue of the Duchy of Cornwall. This is because the laws of England and Wales do not apply to the Duchy.
For example, as the Duchy of Cornwall falls outside of the jurisdiction of England and Wales, and is therefore not subject to the Summons of the English Exchequer (9), the Duke only makes a voluntary contribution to the Inland Revenue. It is precisely because the laws of England and Wales do not apply to the Duchy that the Government and Duchy itself are now taking extraordinary measures to disassociate the Duchy of Cornwall with the territory of Cornwall. This, however, creates a conflict between laws that (a) state and treat the Duchy as being co-extensive with the territory of Cornwall together with (b) laws which treat the Duchy as extra-territorial to England and Wales, and Ministerial assertions that the Duchy is merely a ‘private estate’. This is why the Minister declined to answer Andrew George’s question.
The Crown Proceedings Act 1947 confirms that only the Queen and the Duke of Cornwall have the prerogative right “to control or intervene in any procedings that might affect their rights, property or profits” (10). This legislation effectively permits the Queen and Duke to secretly control the outcome of judicial processes where their interests are perceived to be under threat. This means that in regard to judicial cases involving Cornwall or the Cornish, the de jure leader of Cornwall can secure a court verdict favourable to his own interests - even if a different result would have been in the wider public interest. As shown below, the Cornish have been victims of a practice more common to dictatorships.
The Crown Proceedings Act 1947 eventually gave rise to what are known as Public Interest Immunity Orders. During the 2002 Crown Court trial of Cornish Stannators charged with conspiracy, the defence team attempted to produce as evidence historical legal material pertaining to the Duchy of Cornwall that would have justified the Stannators actions. The Crown Prosecution Service immediately asked for and was granted a Public Interest Immunity Certificate [PIIC] to prevent disclosure of what the CPS termed “sensitive material”. This left the accused unable to properly defend themselves (11).
The most recent incidence of government invoking a PIIC involved the Feb 2009 release of UK resident Binyam Mohamed from Guatanamo Bay. Prior to his release the Foreign Secretary sought and was granted a PIIC on the pretext of preventing ‘sensitive documents’ from leaking out into the public domain. However, the real reason was to prevent the possible release of CIA documents that would have confirmed UK Government involvement in CIA rendition flights and detainee torture.
For several years civil rights group Cornwall 2000 had been attempting to persuade the government to include the Cornish in the Council of Europe Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities. Cornwall County Council, the UK Commission for Racial Equality and the Council of Europe had all urged government to reverse its irrational policy of excluding only the Cornish.
When the matter came before the High Court in 2007, the government said any attempt to extend the provisions of the Convention to the Cornish would be “strongly resisted”. Even though the CRE had shown that the government had acted in an arbitrary way, and the exclusion was not sound in law, the judge perversely and inexplicably decided in favour of the government. It did not go unnoticed that Article 12 of the Convention would have required government to take the constitutional history of Cornwall into schools and other places of learning (12).
If the Duke can secretly manipulate the justice system to secure outcomes favourable to himself, can he also determine the outcome of cases where he is the subject of proceedings? It is likely that this situation will never arise for like the sovereign of England, the sovereign of Cornwall is subject to Crown Immunity. The Queen is granted immunity from prosecution on the basis that, as all prosecutions are brought in her name, she cannot prosecute herself. At least a reason is given. But what reason can the state give for the Duke of Cornwall being provided with an identical immunity reserved for sovereigns? The following statute shows how this ‘twin sovereign’ immunity from prosecution principle operates in practice:
Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006
In 2008 Andrew George MP received another Duchy related letter from a government Minister [see below - click on the page for better resolution]. It concerned thwarted attempts by Scilly islanders to buy their Duchy-owned properties under the Leasehold Reform Act 2002. Their spokesman, a Mr Davis, had been told that as the Duchy was part of the Crown, ‘Crown exemptions’ applied. When Mr Davis attempted to demonstrate that Crown exemptions did not apply because, in the oft-repeated words of government, the Duchy was a ‘private estate’, government immediately reversed its position and strenuously denied this was the case. In fact, the exasperated Parliamentary Under Secretary of State writes: “It does seem that, despite numerous explanations, Mr Davis is unwilling to accept that the Duchy of Cornwall is part of the Crown”.
When government want to conceal the constitutional role of the Duchy of Cornwall, a Government Minister informs Andrew George MP that the Duchy is a ‘private estate’. However, when legislation treats the Duchy as something other than a ‘private estate’ [and to do otherwise would be detrimental to the Duke] another Government Minister informs Andrew George MP that the Duchy is part of the Crown. This is how, for the Cornish, the Ministry of Justice becomes the Misery of Justice.
John Angarrack 2009
1. Form BV C1 Version 2. Sec11: Jurisdiction (Part v).
2. July 21 1994
3. March 2007 CRE Framework Convention Shadow Report.
4. See Chapters 12 and 13 of Scat t’Larrups 2008.
5. 1568 1 Plowd 310.
6. HC Deb 05 February 1891 vol 350 cc4-6.
7. Section 7.178 of the ‘Companion to the Standing Orders and guide to the Proceedings of the House of Lords’.
8. Hansard 123754/5.
9. 3rd Duchy Charter [still operative for the Duke but unacknowledged by Government and discretely removed from the statute book]
10. Crown Proceedings Act 1947 - Part IV: Sections 38 (3) and 40 (2g).
11. For a full account of this case, see Chapter 11, Our Future is History 2002.
12. For a full account of this case, see Chapters 9 – 14, Scat t’Larrups 2008.
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