Eau de Westminster: what does a parliament smell like?
- 20 November 2013
- From the section Wales
You can rely on Welsh Questions to answer the big questions in politics and in life.
MPs from Wales and beyond gather every five weeks or so to argue about the state of the nation and question Secretary of State David Jones and one of his two deputies, Stephen Crabb, about their responsibilities.
Today, Lichfield Tory MP Michael "My Mum's from Aberavon" Fabricant returned to a question he first asked some time ago. You could almost call it a campaign - to rename the National Assembly for Wales.
"If the National Assembly is now going to have borrowing powers," asked Mr Fabricant. "If it's going to smell like a parliament, and if it's going to look like a parliament, isn't it about time the National Assembly of (sic) Wales became the National Parliament of Wales?"
David Jones remains unpersuaded: "I'm not entirely sure how parliament smells, Mr Speaker. We have no plans to change the name of the Welsh assembly."
Cardiff West MP Kevin Brennan used question time to share one of his earliest memories - cramming into the Ford Anglia in 1966 to cross the original Severn bridge. Almost fifty years later, and 17 years after the opening of the second Severn crossing, Mr Brennan asked: "Isn't it about time we looked at improving the Welsh economy by getting rid of those burdensome tolls?"
Mr Jones was sympathetic: "The tolls are a major impediment to businesses in south Wales and I fully agree with him in that regard. Having said that, he is quite right they are very important pieces of infrastructure in south Wales and do in fact indeed assist the south Wales economy immensely. As he will know, the franchise will be ending in 2017/2018. At that time we will certainly be looking at ways to reduce the cost of crossing the Severn."
UK Transport Minister Stephen Hammond told MPs last year the franchise on the privately-owned bridges was due to finish by the end of 2018.
Mr Hammond warned motorists not to expect a reduction in tolls on the end of the franchise, even if VAT were removed as it would take one to two years from the end of the concession to recover other costs totalling £88m.
Two years ago this month, Chancellor George Osborne announced he was "holding open" the possibility of talks on the cost of crossing the Severn. Talks have indeed taken place, but the cost of driving into Wales that way will increase to £6.40 in January.
Welsh questions wouldn't be the same without a discussion of the Silk commission proposals - and the UK government's response to them, announced earlier this week.
Plaid Cymru MP Jonathan Edwards focused on rumours that the UK government contemplated a "sunset clause" that would mean the power to trigger a referendum on income tax powers would lapse if not held by a certain time.
Jonathan Edwards: "Can he confirm today to the House that the proposed sunset clause on the referendum has been dropped?"
David Jones chose his words carefully when framing his answer; "Well, we had no proposals to put a sunset clause on the face of the draft bill."
If you missed it, you can catch up with events here.