MPs begin to scrutinise plans to give Wales more powers

MPs are currently debating the details of the Wales Bill, which has reached the committee stage of its progress through Parliament.

As it's a constitutional Bill, the debate is taking place on the floor of the House of Commons itself. So far, it's been one for the political anoraks rather than those who enjoy the yah-boo of parliamentary exchanges.

The focus has been on electoral systems, with some familiar arguments about list systems, fixed terms and dual candidacy being rehearsed. Both Labour and Plaid Cymru have focused on the way Westminster will continue to decide electoral arrangements, including the length of National Assembly for Wales terms and the number of Assembly Members.

What Plaid Cymru describe as "crucial votes" have yet to take place, although the outcome of them is not thought to be in doubt given the coalition majority. Other proposed changes have come in the form of "probing amendments" designed to ensure a debate takes place rather than force a vote.

These debates are invariably billed as historic, although "historical" might be a more apt term as the history of devolution is revisited.

Conservative Jonathan Evans gave an insight into the Conservative response to the 1997 referendum vote for devolution. Having lost his seat, as had all other Welsh Tory MPs, Mr Evans found himself appointed the party's main spokesman in Wales, a role that involved him visiting William Hague's shadow cabinet to explain why the party had to accept the outcome of the vote.

Former coalition Minister Mark Harper defended Conservative plans, derailed by the Liberal Democrats, to cut the number of Welsh MPs. He proposed an independent review of the assembly's electoral regions, the number of members and the process of electing them.

Plaid Cymru's parliamentary leader Elfyn Llwyd told the Commons MPs already had an equal workload despite differences in voter numbers and geographical areas (Wales has on average fewer voters per constituency than England).

Mr Harper, replied: "The clear principle in our system is that members of Parliament, of course, we represent localities in one sense but we represent electors, not big empty spaces of fields full of sheep and other animals.

"I live next to a farm which has cows and sheep and so forth in it. But the point is I don't represent them in Parliament, I represent my electors."

The proposed abolition of the ban on standing in both constituencies and on regional lists exercised Labour's Owen Smith. Plaid Cymru's Jonathan Edwards said he'd never had a discussion with a constituent on the issue - had Owen Smith?

The shadow Welsh Secretary told him: "Very very few members of my my constituency or indeed I suggest any constituency in Wales ever want to talk to me about the constitution, which seems to exercise all of the time of Plaid Cymru."

Jonathan Edwards wanted the assembly to be able to choose how many members were elected, arguing that it now had more powers than when it was set up in 1999 but still had the same 60 members.

Wales Office Minister Stephen Crabb said he did not want Wales to have more powers in a "piecemeal fashion" but wanted the settlement to be more significant

The debate has been presided over by DUP MP William McCrea. Speaker John Bercow is taking a well-earned break from his duties after earlier introducing the Tory MP for Monmouth as "David Top Cat, er TC, David TC Davies".

As Mr Davies told me: "There are worse nicknames to have."

You can watch the debate here. Enjoy!