Powers inquiry: MPs prepare to draw conclusions

It's a tough job, but someone, as they say, has got to do it.

Tory MP David Davies chairs the Welsh affairs select committee that has just finished its inquiry into proposals to give the Welsh government taxation powers.

He admits there is a "wide diversity" of views about the draft Wales Bill among members of his committee.

The draft Bill devolves some smaller taxes such as stamp duty and offers the Welsh government partial control of income tax after a referendum.

The package has been described as "a great deal for Wales" by Finance Minister Jane Hutt who said it would be widely welcomed in Wales, although Shadow Welsh Secretary Owen Smith has said the Welsh government didn't ask for or want the power to vary income tax.

Most witnesses to the inquiry have criticised the proposed "lockstep" restriction on the Welsh government's ability to vary income tax rates. How will the select committee reflect the evidence it received? Will its members divide along party lines or are their differences within parties?

Despite rumours Welsh First Minister Carwyn Jones was to be recalled to face questions about Labour policy in the wake of Owen Smith's speech, the committee has apparently concluded its evidence sessions.

The MPs are due to finalise their report later this month. Mr Davies told me: "I can seriously say there is a wide diversity of views about it, a range of opinions and we will all enjoy knitting it into a cohesive report."

He said that although it was going to be an "interesting challenge" getting a united report "I look forward to rising to that challenge."

Today, the deputy prime minister piled into the debate sparked by Owen Smith's contribution to last week's meeting of the Welsh grand committee. The deputy prime minister Nick Clegg accused Labour of having a "very ambivalent attitude towards further devolution to Wales" and contrasted it with the coalition's "unambiguous" desire to translate the Silk commission report into legislation.

Mr Clegg told Brecon and Radnorshire MP Roger Williams that he couldn't pre-empt the Queen's speech outlining the UK government's legislation plans but the coalition had a "determination to translate the Silk report into action."

Away from the chamber, Labour have started to return fire on the issue, highlighting this quote from the maiden speech of a Conservative member of the National Assembly for Wales in 2002: "We should remember that the Assembly's budget is limited by what we receive from Westminster. We have no tax-raising powers - long may that state of affairs continue."

The author? There are no prizes for identifying the current secretary of state for Wales. His Labour shadow, Owen Smith, said: "If you want to know the real views of the Secretary of State, look no further than his maiden speech to the Welsh Assembly, when he expressed his real belief that Wales should have no powers over taxation, not even stamp duty, landfill tax and aggregates levy which Labour - the party of devolution - fully supports.

"The people of Wales have a right to know what David Jones really thinks. Does he support tax devolution, as he now says, or does he oppose it, as he did when he sat in the National Assembly for Wales?

"The slipperiness of his views will only deepen suspicions that the Tories' new-found support for income tax devolution is just a hospital pass for Wales asking less well-off communities to pick up the bill when the Tories' cut public service budgets to fund tax cuts for the rich."

David Jones's office has been asked for a response.