Spirit of St David infuses Commons Welsh debate

David Cornock
Parliamentary correspondent, Wales

image caption'Much has happened since the last St David's Day' - Christina Rees, Labour's fourth shadow Welsh Secretary in 12 months

St David's Day usually lasts the best part of a week at Westminster. So, 24 hours after St David's Day, MPs held their annual debate on Welsh affairs.

It was a generally upbeat affair, with MPs celebrating St David, Wales and positive events from the past year. Gareth Bale's ears may have been burning.

Neath MP Christina Rees made her despatch box debut as shadow Welsh secretary - to an audience slightly smaller than the one that will greet her at question time next Wednesday (Welsh questions takes place before prime minister's questions and the Budget).

Ms Rees said she looked forward to working with Welsh Secretary Alun Cairns in making Wales a truly superb place to live and work: "I am truly passionately Welsh and I always will be," she added.

She was not alone in her passion. Several MPs stretched Tuesday night's rule change on the speaking of Welsh at Westminster to challenge the Hansard reporters.

Some MPs offered their own analysis of St David - Welsh Liberal Democrat leader, Mark Williams, suggested he would be opposed to the UK government's policy on refugees. Susan Elan Jones pointed out that St David's mother had retired to Brittany.

Brecon and Radnorshire Tory MP Chris Davies suggested St David's ability to raise the ground beneath him into a small hill so his sermon could be seen and heard.

"There are times, said Mr Davies, "when I and the secretary of state for Wales, to do with our height, wish we had just such a power."

'Common ground'

Brexit featured more frequently than the Barnett formula. Alun Cairns told MPs: "Despite political differences there are many objectives that we share and the white paper from the Welsh Government was a welcome contribution and there is significant common ground that I believe we can work from."

Several MPs pressed the case of the proposed Swansea Bay tidal lagoon in the hope that it will feature in Philip Hammond's first Budget.

Developments at Ford also featured prominently. Mr Cairns said: "We need to recognise that in relation to Ford there is a natural life cycle of a product and I think we need to be realistic in terms of where we were expected to be at this stage of development.

"When I met Ford just two days ago there was a recognition that the sustainable future is optimistic but there is the opportunity and the need to win further business for when the natural life cycle of the existing engine ends and it is in that basis that I look positively at the challenges that we face in order to make those jobs sustainable over the longer term."

Bridgend Labour MP Madeleine Moon said she had received assurances that Ford would receive the same deal as Nissan. This surprised some observers, but the Business Secretary Greg Clark told MPs in October last year that the four assurances given to Nissan were available to all players in the sector.

The debate ended without a vote.