Today's big story at Westminster: the Welsh Grand
- 23 January 2013
- From the section Wales politics
Some thought it would never happen. Others argued over the venue. But after weeks of speculation around Westminster, I can report that the Welsh grand committee has met to discuss the Silk commission's report on devolution to Wales.
Committee members - Welsh MPs plus a few faces from east of Offa's Dyke - gathered in committee room 14 in the House of Commons to digest what Paul Silk and his fellow commissioners had to say.
Welsh Secretary David Jones - who says he's moved from "devo-sceptic" to "devo-realist" - opened the debate with a 28-minute speech in which he carefully avoided saying what he thought of the proposals or indeed whether the UK government would implement them.
He did indicate the government's support for the Welsh government to acquire borrowing powers which would be "commensurate" with any revenue stream it acquires through the devolution of minor taxes.
Braintree Tory MP Brooks Newmark stressed his Welsh credentials - "my family had a steel business in Wales" - before raising concerns about borrowing powers "I'm concerned that ultimately UK plc will foot the bill if things go wrong".
David Jones confirmed the UK government would ultimately pick up the tab if Wales defaulted on its debt. Without giving much away, Mr Jones did suggest the Silk report would be considered in the context that the Welsh government should be responsible for raising some of its own budget.
He was followed by his Labour shadow, Owen Smith, who questioned Mr Jones's previous suggestion that the Treasury would have the final say on whether to devolve taxes. Mr Smith's suggestion that under Labour the Wales Office - not the Treasury - would take the key decisions was not universally accepted.
"Silk is where the rubber hits the road for Wales right now," said Mr Smith, who said Labour support the devolution of taxes such as air passenger duty and the aggregates levy if it unlocks borrowing powers.
Labour would support the Welsh government getting the power to vary income tax rates after a referendum if the Barnett formula that decides much Welsh spending is reformed and if it can be shown that it would be good for Wales.
The new faces included Tory Jesse Norman, who tweeted: A day of joy on the Welsh Grand Committee re: tax devolution for Wales." He wondered if England would end up subsidising tax competition Will England end up subsidising tax competition against his home county of Herefordshire.
Mr Norman was not alone. Chester MP Stephen Mosley tweeted: "Gatecrashing Welsh Grand Committee today to highlight cross-border issues which may be caused by devolution of tax raising powers to Wales."
The Welsh Grand is a committee of two halves, and the second session has just got under way. I have been diverted by the prime minister's speech on Europe but I will return to the Welsh Grand if news breaks out there.