Bedside reading, constitutional tinkering and the pub

It could be the bedside reading of choice for a Welsh political anorak.

The Wales Office, the Uk government department that represents Wales, has published its annual report.

With unfortunate timing, the report was printed before Cheryl Gillan was sacked as secretary of state but published after she had been replaced by David Jones.

It is by far the most extensive report the department has published in its short history and features details on everything from policy commitments to the pension benefits of senior staff.

Cheryl Gillan wrote the foreword and makes much of the Wales Office having achieved its three commitments from the coalition agreement.

In case you've forgotten them, they were to facilitate a referendum on the Welsh assembly's powers, to devolve housing powers to Cardiff and to set up a commission to look at whether the Welsh government should raise more of the money it spends.

Given the constitutional nature of these commitments, and her focus on the boundaries of assembly constituencies, it may be surprising to learn that Mrs Gillan believes the UK government is doing too much "time-wasting constitutional tinkering".

Mrs Gillan believes is working too much to a Liberal Democrat agenda. Conservative MPs openly admit that the Silk commission would not have happened without the Lib Dems, although many Tories are happy with the idea of increased accountability for the Welsh government (if that is what results).

Her views on the high-speed rail route ("this terrible HS2 project") are more predictable, although the former Transport Secretary Justine Greening once appeared to believe that a proposed tunnel under Mrs Gillan's constituency had bought off her opposition. If so, she was wrong.

The Wales Office annual report reminds us what a small department it is, even if it is one of the few in Whitehall growing under the coalition government.

It has few executive powers, but after the reshuffle it now has as many ministers as it had before devolution, when the old Welsh Office was responsible for education, health, economic development and other areas now devolved to the National Assembly for Wales.

Mrs Gillan's successor, David Jones, is a big supporter of the prime minister's "big society" drive so it may be appropriate that his two junior ministers are unpaid in their roles.

Mr Jones, as a junior minister, did his share of volunteering. As the annual report puts it: "The parliamentary under-secretary of state has spent some time with a food co-operative in North Wales; and with the North Wales Training Motor Vehicle Workshop."

The report does not highlight any mechanical skills the new secretary of state may have acquired through volunteering. That may explain why Mr Jones is often keen to let the train take the strain, although things don't always go according to plan.

He tweeted plaintively on Saturday: "I was supposed to be at home 10 minutes ago. Instead I'm sitting in a pub in Shrewsbury. It's a nice pub, but that's not the point."