Draft Wales Bill: MPs prepare to deliver their verdict

The National Assembly for Wales has spoken. AMs have demanded a series of changes to the UK government's blueprint for the future of devolution.

Conservative AMs joined in the calls for Welsh Secretary Stephen Crabb to re-write his draft Wales Bill, which appeared occasionally friendless during Wednesday's debate on a report written by an assembly committee.

Image caption The Welsh affairs committee - and its (self-penned) job description

So what happens next? MPs on the Welsh affairs select committee this week took delivery of a draft version of the report of their inquiry into the Bill and are due to meet next week to consider it.

Committee chair David Davies greeted the publication of the draft bill with the claim that it was Wales was edging a step nearer to independence. Committee members include Plaid Cymru's Liz Saville Roberts, who probably wishes she could drawn the same conclusion.

Other committee members include devosceptic Tories who would be happy to see the bill quietly dropped, and Labour MPs who agree with First Minister Carwyn Jones that the bill reverses the devolution settlement.

So Mr Davies faces the challenge of finding a consensus that goes further than the lowest common denominator of summing up the evidence but makes concrete recommendations. Can they come up with a compromise to please all sides?

'Red lines'

Mr Crabb has said he does expect to make some big changes to the bill and agrees, for example, that the list of areas to be reserved to Westminster is too long.

But he does have his red lines - notably the assembly would not be allowed to legislate "across the devolution divide" in reserved areas without UK government consent. He still appears set against a separate Welsh legal jurisdiction although he has discussed with the Lord Chief Justice and the Lord Chancellor "about what we need to be doing to think about taking account of future changes as well to cater for some of the distinctiveness that will arise within Welsh law".

Mr Crabb is looking forward to reading the committee's verdict when the report is published within a fortnight or so.

AMs may be intrigued to read the committee's Twitter biography (above). A cross-party committee of MPs appointed to scrutinise the Welsh assembly? I'm told this reflects the limits of space on twitter (the remit does include relations with the assembly) rather than the desire of MPs to hold to account their counterparts in Cardiff Bay. Not that one or two members of the committee wouldn't be averse to such a role....