F-word sparks energy row between Wales and Westminster

There are some over-used phrases that can induce weariness in the most fresh-faced of hacks.

I suspect that within months voters, not to mention battle-weary reporters, will have tired of writing "a row has broken out between the UK and Welsh Governments".

But while I still have your attention, a row has broken out between the UK and Welsh Governments.

This row is about energy. Again. The Wales Office Minister David Jones told MPs yesterday the UK Government had received no formal (my emphasis) request to devolve the power to decide large energy projects from Westminster to Cardiff Bay.

Cue angry statement from Welsh Government: "This is categorically untrue. The First Minister has raised the matter of devolving energy consents directly with the UK Government, on three separate occasions since the Welsh election in May.

"He first raised the matter during one of his regular bilateral meetings with the Secretary of State for Wales. He then raised it again at the recent Joint Ministerial Committee, at which the Secretary of State was present. On both occasions, she said she had no plans to devolve powers.

"On the third occasion at the recent British Irish Council, the First Minister raised the issue directly with the UK Minister responsible for energy."

"Given that David Jones was not present at any of these meetings, perhaps he should correct his inaccurate comment."

Mr Jones, who tends to speak with the precision of a Dickensian solicitor, has turned down the chance to correct his inaccurate comment.

This is because the UK Government believes his comment was accurate as no formal request has been received. By formal, Mr Jones means a request in writing.

Both the Wales Office and the Department for Energy and Climate Change have trawled their records and have yet to find any written request.

A Wales Office spokesman said: "These verbal requests have not contained a detailed rationale, backed up by a business case, explaining why these powers should be devolved.

"If the First Minister does write formally we will re-state the position that these powers will not be devolved."

So Ministers in Wales and Westminster are at loggerheads over the definition of the word "formal".

It's an academic argument as everyone knows the Welsh Government says publicly it wants the powers and the UK Government says it won't hand over them.

The refusal gives Welsh Ministers the chance to blame UK Ministers for any future large windfarm developments in Mid Wales although David Jones says Welsh planning guidance would be to blame.

So what of the formal request? A Welsh Government source insists a letter has gone out. Perhaps it's still in the post.