Tax row on menu as Osborne has Welsh Tories for lunch

David Davies MP
Image caption Running late: David Davies, one of five Welsh Tory MPs unhappy with George Osborne's decision, rushes to get to the meeting with the chancellor.

I counted them all in and I counted them all out. Welsh Conservative MPs (minus Guto Bebb) met George Osborne over lunchtime sandwiches and crisps in Downing Street.

It was, as we are routinely told, a routine meeting. They discussed the proposed "city deal" for Cardiff, the Swansea tidal lagoon project ("we're trying to make it work" said one MP), rail electrification.

And, yes, they also discussed the chancellor's announcement that Wales is to be offered the power to vary income tax rates without a referendum.

Scrapping the requirement to hold a vote prompted five of the nine Welsh Tory backbenchers to write to Mr Osborne to complain about what they thought would be seen as disrespectful to the people of Wales and a breach of a manifesto promise.

Four MPs spoke on that issue during the meeting. Byron Davies, Chris Davies and David Jones repeated their objections; Craig Williams supported the chancellor's decision.

Glyn Davies campaigned for the scrapping of the referendum before it became fashionable. He told me afterwards: "I think it's the right thing to do. It makes the assembly financially accountable and I think it helps devolution grow up."

But another of those present said afterwards: "This is an issue that splits us down the middle".

No-one appears to expect the chancellor to change his mind and when the draft Wales Bill is replaced by real legislation it should include a clause to remove the referendum requirement.

And for those who are interested, the chancellor served crisps sourced from Wales and beef sandwiches ("Welsh beef, best in the world" as a passing Jeremy Hunt observed).