First step taken the Silk route in Wales

The first public step of the journey - yes, go on then, the Silk route - took place this morning in a corner of the Wales Office.

It is clear, however, that at its end might be conclusions that would fundamentally change the way Wales is funded.

There was a Guardian journalist at the briefing, one whose take on what devolution has meant and might yet mean in Wales is here.

What he - and we - heard was the Welsh Secretary, Cheryl Gillan, saying that "you cannot put devolution in a block of concrete," that it is always evolving and that the Silk Commission must be free to consider all options over the coming months, as long as they are "consistent with the United Kingdom's fiscal objectives".

She kept coming back to that one, key point: about appearance. No, not that appearance ,but the appearance of power without responsibility. That is what she sees in Cardiff and that is what she wants to change.

It shouldn't come as a surprise to Mrs Gillan or to anyone else, therefore, that the coalition's motives for wanting to see devolution continuing to evolve came in for some questioning.

Peter Hain, the shadow Welsh Secretary, was "suspicious ... at a time when their savage cuts are hitting Wales so hard, we are sceptical about the impact any tinkering in the funding formula will have".

'Horse and cart'

One other issue worth mentioning.

If the commission recommends that tax-varying powers be devolved, would there have to be a referendum first? The question hung in the air. It is, we gather, up to the commission to recommend whether such a move could be triggered without asking the people what they think.

"Don't put the cart before the horse" said the Welsh Secretary. "Let's see first what the commission recommends".

You just can't escape the feeling, however, that the cart is moving very much in one direction - and that's towards some pretty fundamental change.