Prime Minister to meet Welsh Tories amid income tax row

David Cameron and Nick Clegg David Cameron and Nick Clegg announced tax powers for Wales in November

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The prime minister will meet Welsh Tory AMs later this week as the fallout continues over the party's divisions over income tax devolution.

Tory AMs will travel to Westminster on Thursday for what is described as their regular annual meeting at No 10.

David Cameron is expected to be present despite German Chancellor Angela Merkel visiting parliament the same day.

The gathering follows the sacking of four shadow cabinet ministers by Welsh Tory leader Andrew RT Davies.

There are also tensions between him and the Secretary of State for Wales David Jones.

Mr Davies's chief of staff, Antony Pickles, was called to a meeting in Downing Street on Tuesday evening as No 10 tries to resolve the rows.

There is said to be puzzlement in Downing Street over the sackings and a desire to find out what happened and why.

Tuesday's meeting was said to be about finding a way through the tensions and to prepare for Thursday's gathering.

One MP said they were traditionally not invited to the annual meeting between AMs and the prime minister, although Wales Office Minister Stephen Crabb has cancelled an official visit to promote tourism so he can be in Westminster on Thursday.

Secretary of State David Jones is also expected to attend the meeting at Downing Street.

'Lockstep'

Last week, Mr Cameron said plans to hand restricted tax powers to Wales are the "starting point" for a debate.

UK ministers want to hold a referendum on allowing the Welsh government to vary income tax rates.

Andrew RT Davies Andrew RT Davies said he hoped the sackings would make the Welsh Tories stronger

Each income tax band could only be moved at the same time and by the same amount - the so-called "lockstep".

A row over whether to back the lockstep or not led to Welsh Conservative leader Andrew RT Davies sacking four members of his shadow cabinet.

Mr Davies has criticised the lockstep while the four colleagues he sacked said they were supporting the policy of the UK coalition government.

Mr Cameron made his comments on the issue while visiting flood-hit areas of Pembrokeshire last Wednesday.

He did not comment directly on divisions within his party's assembly group, but said: "What we believe is that we need further devolution here in Wales.

"We want the Welsh assembly to have the power over taxes and we want the Conservative Party to be the low-tax party in Wales campaigning here to make sure we help people with the cost of living by keeping the cost of government down and making sure they keep more of their hard-earned money to spend as the choose.

"That's what we stand for, that's what the Welsh Conservatives stand for and I welcome that.

"First of all we need to get the referendum, we need to have the debate about the referendum and the Conservative Party will be supporting a 'Yes' vote, and the starting point for all that is the settlement as set out in the [UK] government's response to the Silk inquiry."

The Silk Commission was set up by UK ministers to look into devolved powers and said Wales should be responsible for raising some of the money it spends.

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