8 November 2010

See addendum 23 November 2010 at (5) at the end of the post

The parliamentary voting system and constituencies (PVSC) bill, now through the Commons and due for second reading in the Lords on 15 November, has thrown up some interesting variations in language usage around the word county.

On her blog on 25 October Labour’s Jude Robinson gave a transcript of the oral views about keeping Cornwall whole that Eleanor Laing, Conservative MP, gave on television (see the bottom of the post).

No, I’m not looking at Laing’s argument; what interests me is that the transcript has in it the Latin word sic as an external comment, presumably Robinson’s, on Laing’s use of the word county to describe Cornwall: “county [sic] of Cornwall”.

There are standard uses of sic and they’re set out in this OED definition: “A parenthetical insertion used in printing quotations or reported utterances to call attention to something anomalous or erroneous in the original, or to guard against the supposition of misquotation.”

So how are we to take the sic in the transcript?

Labour amendments 13 and 132 to the PVSC bill included the words: “the county of Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly council areas”. Named backers include the party leader(s) so I take it that they were official Labour amendments. A sicless county there.

The defeated Libdem amendment 183 read in part (e): “the county of Cornwall and Isles of Scilly council areas”. No sic there either. However, the amendment was in the name of Charles Kennedy; but its named backers on the Notices of amendments included Andrew George, Stephen Gilbert, and Dan Rogerson.

Note that the amendments 4 (from George, Gilbert, and Rogerson), 71 (George), and 137 (Sheryll Murray) all referred simply to “Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly” – no county anywhere from the Cornwall MPs.

Not a duchy in sight, much less a crown dependency or extraterritorial whatever.

But wait. At the second reading of the bill George Eustice, Conservative MP for Camborne and Redruth, said that Cornwall “is not just a normal county – it is a duchy” (Hansard 6 September 2010 column 113); and in the report stage debate on the bill Eleanor Laing (see 1 above), still opposing the object of the keeping Cornwall whole campaign, courteously spoke of “the duchy of Cornwall” (Hansard 1 November 2010 column 679).

Addenda updated 30 November 2010
The marshalled amendments to to clause 11 of the PVSC bill at 29 November 2010 include several that describe Cornwall:

Robin Teverson, Libdem, amendment 79: it is basically a repeat of Commons amendment 183 at (3) above and talks of “the county of Cornwall and Isles of Scilly council areas”. Labour amendment 79a is similar and talks of “the county of Cornwall and Isles of Scilly council areas”.

Roy Kennedy (lord Kennedy of Southwark) Labour, amendment 86: “Parliamentary boundaries shall not cross the county border of Cornwall”.

Tony Gueterbock (lord Berkeley), Labour, amendment 87: “No constituency shall include parts of both the counties of Devon and Cornwall”.

Paul Myners, Labour, amendment 88: “…entirely within the county of Cornwall”.

You can hear Laing’s comments here on BBC Daily Politics for 25 October.

Here is an earlier post: The C-word