Enthusiasm trickling down on devolution in Wales

Sir Kenneth Calman Image copyright PA
Image caption Sir Kenneth Calman led a review of Scottish devolution

"Ap Calman".

"Calman Cymru".

"Oh not another group of experts in suits looking at constitutional matters in Wales - already?"

Take your pick, choose your name (or is that your attitude) and get ready to learn more about the commission that will consider the future of devolution and funding in Wales - a process Sir Kenneth Calman led in Scotland some years ago. (Digesting the Calman report calls)

It was promised in the UK coalition agreement - a commission to examine the case for the devolution of taxation powers to Wales, as well as a possible widening of the subject areas currently devolved.

Some have already taken a pretty well-educated guess at who its members might be. Add a couple of well-educated men of letters and numbers and I suspect you're probably there.

We know what will not be included in the terms of reference. Reform to the formula that sets the block grant Wales gets from Westminster will not be there. That's to be negotiated between the Welsh and UK Governments. Whether Wales should be able to borrow money to fund big road and building projects won't be there either. That, too, will be a matter for the two governments to sort out between them.

But examining whether the Welsh Government should take on rather more responsibility for raising the money it spends? Yes - that's a subject the commission will grapple with and it's a subject the Welsh Secretary sounds as though she's rather keen they grapple with.

Remember Cheryl Gillan's speech at the Conservative party conference in Manchester? Remember the emphasis on "how to make ministers accountable for the money they spend. No more something for nothing! An end to power without responsibility."

From memory, that got a round of applause from a party whose attitude to devolution has been and is changing fast. Just take a look at this if you want to see an example of that very fundamental change of heart - albeit in relation to Scotland - and if you want to understand, partly at least, what might be behind it. Just last Thursday I listened as Tory MP Glyn Davies and Labour AM Mark Drakeford discussed whether - for instance - tax-raising powers ought to be devolved to Cardiff Bay. The more enthusiastic of the two, by some way, was Mr Davies.

It reminded me just a bit of a friend who I once saw being force-fed broad beans by her mother. On this side of the table, the one with the plate of what they know is good for you, though it doesn't taste that good and who is offering the plate in the full knowledge that refusing it is going to lead to one heck of a mess. On the other side, the one who really, really isn't sure they want to taste what's coming their way but who is equally aware that refusing what's on offer will take some explaining.

Mr Davies looked rather askance as Mr Drakeford would say only that it's fine to discuss all options, just as long as the block grant remains in place.

Where's this new-found enthusiasm coming from, I wondered? How far up the UK government chain does it go?

"To the top" is one answer I've been given. If so, it'll be interesting to see the enthusiasm trickling down and watch as the commission consider its effects.