Devolving income tax causes more problems in Welsh politics

Devolving income tax has been causing problems for a number of the political parties.

I don't suppose anyone should be surprised.

This is, after all, the biggest revenue raiser of the lot and we're talking about serious money.

A penny rise or cut across the three bands will generate or cost the Welsh government £200m, if and when it is partially devolved.

Labour were forced to deny that there were inconsistencies in their party last week after the shadow Welsh secretary Owen Smith came out strongly against devolving income tax.

Even Plaid Cymru say campaigning for the current lockstep model - which means any changes have to be carried out in tandem across the different bands - is not a priority for them.

But it's the Conservatives who have got into the biggest tangle with the decision by the leader of the party in Wales, Andrew RT Davies, to sack four members of his front bench team: Nick Ramsay, Antoinette Sandbach, Mohammad Ashgar and Janet Finch-Saunders.

They failed to vote in an amendment to a debate on the Draft Wales Bill on Tuesday which criticised the lockstep model.

Andrew RT Davies believes the lockstep model is unworkable and yet it is the policy of the Conservative-led UK coalition government.

And it's an odd element of this story that the four AMs to have been sacked from the team say they are supporting the Conservative party in believing that any income-tax model, including the lockstep, is a good thing.

The problem for them is that the Tory group at the assembly voted to support the amendment to criticise it, so that meant they broke the whip.

In that sense you could argue that Andrew RT Davies had no choice but to sack them. As he pointed out to me, they would not have been able to get away with it at Westminster, so why should they be able to at Cardiff Bay.

But you could also question the need to sack four AMs over such a technical point on something which may never happen, bearing in mind that the devolution of income tax will only take place after a referendum and reform of the Barnett Formula.

After all, with all due respect to those who have been sacked, the views of the AMs on the lockstep is hardly something that will be talked about in pubs up and down the country.

It's a question, albeit framed in a more formal way, which I put to Andrew RT Davies on Wales Today.

The answer from him was about the importance of cabinet collective responsibility, and that if the four couldn't agree with the majority view then they had to face the consequences.