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The Duchy incompatible with democracy

The Duchy incompatible with democracy

The General Secretary (GS) of the Celtic League has written about the unrivalled influence of the Duke of Cornwall in his column in the West Briton newspaper this month.

Rhisiart Tal-e-bot argues that the Duke is able to exercise considerable power in Cornwall that seems to place him outside of "the rules and regulations that govern everyone else", following leaked documents that show the Duke is able to veto or modify laws that affect his vested interests, especially in the Duchy of Cornwall estate. The full text of the article is set out below.

"What do you get when a private business man is able to exercise exceptional power over public legislation and exploit his public office to further his private interests? No, this is not the beginning of a funny joke, but the reality of life in the `delectable duchy' under the Duke of Cornwall, where paupers starve and princes - or rather a Duke - enjoys unrivalled influence.

If you think I am joking, take the last month for instance. At the end of October we heard that the Duke of Cornwall had been asked for his consent on 12 government bills on a range of issues, mainly affecting the Duchy of Cornwall. It is unknown if the Duke suggested alterations to the proposed legislation, because he is except from Freedom of Information Act requests. It has been revealed that if proposed legislation could potentially affect the Duke's private Duchy of Cornwall interests, then the Duke has a right to veto. I am sure many other business men in Cornwall would like the opportunity to do the same.

As a private estate the Duchy of Cornwall can escape public scrutiny, but it enjoys a range of powers that are normally reserved for public institutions, like the government. It's all very well for apologists to say that the Duchy of Cornwall is a complex legal entity, but somebody seems to know what it is when there is money to be made. Homeowners on the Isle of Scilly are still reeling from a legal loophole that has allowed the Duke to buy the land on which their homes are built, even though this power is only normally reserved for public bodies. Neither does the Duchy carry out environmental assessments as its farming of non native oysters in the Helford have revealed, because if you are the Duchy of Cornwall anything is possible.

Residents in Truro have started an e petition against a proposed complex development that the Duchy of Cornwall backs, to build on a green field site. In any other circumstance the application would hardly be considered, but this is the Duchy of Cornwall we are talking about. Then last week we hear that the Duke is planning on imposing metal detector licences in Cornwall for those people who enjoy combing the beach on the foreshore, which the Duchy of Cornwall owns as part of its Duchy Estate (is that the private part or the public part I wonder?). Of course, if you die in Cornwall and no one is entitled to your estate your money goes to the Duchy of Cornwall and likewise if a company registered in Cornwall is dissolved leaving assets, the Duke takes these too. Not a bad set up for any mafia boss … I mean businessman.

To be fair, the exercise of these privileges makes good business sense for any enterprising man and the egg is on the face of those who have let this dirty business go on for so long. But the problem is who can take this man and the pursuit of his private interests to task? A friend once told me that as a Royal Navy diver in the 1970's he had once arrived late for dinner on the ship he had been working, because of a mild case of the bends. On asking for a late meal he had been refused by Charles Windsor, in his Royal Navy capacity. Unhappy with the response he received the man told me that he had asked for Windsor's superior officer and the response from Windsor was that he was the next King of England and he had no superiors. Perhaps this man still thinks he can work outside the rules and regulations that govern everyone else? Well it would seem he can, especially where the Duchy of Cornwall's concerned. "

For comment or clarification on this news item in the first instance contact: Rhisiart Tal-e-bot, General Secretary, Celtic League: Tel: 0044 (0)1209 319912 M: 0044 (0)7787318666 The General Secretary will determine the appropriate branch or General Council Officer to respond to your query.

The campaign group Republic also has the Duchy in its sights. You'd think however that if they are trying to involve the people of Cornwall then they'd organise their meeting in Cornwall. Anyway details can be found below.

At our planned Plymouth meeting in the new year one of the topics on the agenda will be the creation of a new campaign focussed on the abolition of the Duchy of Cornwall. With the Duke of Cornwall - prince Charles - getting ever nearer to the throne it is high time his cash-cow duchy was directly challenged by the people of Cornwall. If you would like to know more about this new project please get in touch with me by emailing:

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