22 May 2009

Water bills in the southwest were debated in the House of Commons the other day. The well-known problems were once more aired: people in the southwest are paying larger bills than comparable others across England because we pay for the costs of cleaning the bathing waters here. The favoured local answer was once more aired: the beaches and bathing waters are national assets and their cost should be shared across England not met only by people in the southwest. The minister, responding, set out the government’s view: “fair, affordable, and cost-reflective water charging that incentivises environmentally responsible behaviour while protecting vulnerable groups” (Hansard 19 May 2009 column 1479). We can all agree with that aim. How we achieve that aim is challenging, as he went on to point out. There is an inquiry under way into charging by Anna Walker which reports soon and might produce answers. I think we should now await the Walker review and I do not understand the point of this Commons debate at this stage.

However, my reason for posting this is not the subject, which I have discussed before. As I have said, let’s wait for the Walker report on it.

No, this post is to point out that advocates of Cornish devolution/independence have questions to answer:

How do they see an independent or semi-independent or devolved Cornwall meeting ever-higher EU water standards and paying the costs?

Will the costs in Cornwall be met only by people in Cornwall?

Or will the historic and sacred borders of Cornwall dissolve and costly water and sewerage make us part of England again with people who either live in the rest of the southwest or live even farther away and who never come here paying towards cleaning Cornwall bathing waters?

It would surely be unacceptable if Cornish devolution/independence meant decision-making in Cornwall but not meeting the costs from within Cornwall, calling the tune but not paying the piper.