Cameron backs 'messy' devolution to keep UK together

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Media captionMr Cameron made the 'English only votes' pledge at the Conservative conference in Birmingham

It's Tuesday afternoon here in Birmingham - possibly where you are too - and you're probably wondering where David Cameron stands on fiscal devolution to Wales.

The prime minister has given an interview to ITV Wales (ours was postponed when parliament was recalled last week).

Here's his explanation for the removal of the lockstep: I think it makes sense now that this extra step is being take in Scotland to revisit the situation in Wales and to recognise that actually fiscal devolution, giving local parliaments, national parliaments more power to raise and spend the money works for both.

"In Wales, I'm a 'double yes' man. I say 'yes' to a referendum on tax-raising powers and 'yes' in that referendum to having those tax raising powers, so we've got some steps to go through but I'm clear about what I'd like to see happen."

With Welsh Tory patience at the Welsh government's reluctance to trigger that referendum being gradually eroded, Adrian Masters asked Mr Cameron why there still had to be a referendum on tax-varying powers.

"That's what we've all said, those were the rules that were set out so I think we should stick to that process."

He seemed less enthusiastic about the prospect of policing being devolved to Wales, given cross-border issues. There were arguments "in both directions" about issues such as policing and broadcasting.

So what's the plan? "I'm a United Kingdom patriot, I want our Union to stay together and it seems to me the best way to help that happen is a devolution settlement that people can rest on. And I think the problem so far is we haven't found an effective resting place.

"And I think part of the reason for that is that until parliaments and assemblies are responsible for raising more of the money they spend you don't actually have a settlement that coheres and lasts and I think this piece of so-called fiscal devolution - raising and spending the money - will actually help to make these parliaments work better.

"My argument is that in Wales the assembly at the moment simply spends money and I think that becomes a competition on spending rather than a responsible government thinking 'how do I raise the money? how do I spend the money?' But once you've done that you do have to address the English question otherwise it's simply not fair on English members of parliament."

What's the answer to the English question?

"Our United Kingdom is complicated. I'm not in favour of some simple federal solution. I don't think it works with England being the size that it is. We have to accept a certain bit of messiness in our constitution as a price for keeping us all together but English votes for English laws and, where appropriate, English and Welsh votes for English and Welsh laws, I think is an answer that we can find."

No-one has yet answered the English question to universal approval but that's the optimism of a man who once told party members: "Let sunshine win the day".

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