Ministers accused of opting for "comfortable impotence"

Happy St Caron's Day. Today is the feast day of the third century Cardiganshire saint by that name.

You probably knew that already, although I had to rely on the expertise of former Welsh Secretary Paul Murphy, a man who knows his saints.

At Westminster, it is still St David's Day. MPs are debating Welsh affairs and First Minister Carwyn Jones has been hosting a reception for diplomats at the Foreign Office.

The debate - attended by fewer than half the 40 Welsh MPs - was opened by the Montgomeryshire Tory Glyn Davies, who accused the Welsh government of "preferring comfortable impotence" to facing up to tough decisions.

"I do not believe," said Mr Davies, "we should devolve one iota more power to the Welsh government until income tax powers are devolved."

He said he would try to change the law to remove the need to hold a referendum before ministers in Cardiff gain some control of income tax.

"The Welsh government just wants to carry on claiming credit for those things the voters like and blaming Westminster for those things the voters don't like, avoiding any tough decisions preferring comfortable impotence to facing up to the tough decisions governments have to take.

"And how can it be thought right to refer to a Welsh assembly as a Welsh parliament - which all of us want to do - while clinging to a position where in reality it is not a great deal more than a spending body."

In his speech, possibly his last in the Commons, Paul Murphy warned that it would be "foolish" to axe the job he held twice - that of secretary of state for Wales.

Those who suggest merging the UK territorial departments don't understand the nature of the job, said Mr Murphy.

Over at the Foreign Office Mr Jones gave his guests a potted history of Wales, its language and culture - explaining how the flag is "the hardest in the world to draw".

He also reflected on last year's NATO meeting in Newport, joking: "It gave us particular pleasure to host the summit when the UK government was paying most of the bills."

It may have been a joke but that may explain why some Conservatives want to see the Welsh government take responsibility for raising some of its own budget sooner rather than later.