Crabb stays at Wales Office: what next?

The smile as Stephen Crabb strolled along what has some newspapers have dubbed the "Downing Street catwalk" suggested good news.

David Cameron invites those he intends to retain or promote to walk through the front door of No 10 for the cameras. Those to be sacked are relieved of their duties behind closed doors in his Commons office.

So the secretary of state for Wales knew his summons to No 10 meant he was keeping his job. Once inside, the job "interview" lasted less than 10 minutes and David Cameron tweeted news of his re-appointment. (Under the unwritten British constitution, Twitter has become the official noticeboard for HM government).

A grinning Mr Crabb then emerged to gush "very happy, a very good day, I'm staying in Wales".

If he was disappointed at not moving on to (even) greater things he hid it well. There had been the traditional talk of merging the Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland Offices but as usual they got no further than civil service options.

While Mr Crabb was busy fighting the general election, his officials at the Wales Office worked on legislation that will implement what the Conservatives call the "St David's Day agreement".

Image copyright David Cameron
Image caption The prime minister announces Stephen Crabb's re-appointment on Twitter.

We were told by George Osborne during the election campaign that the legislation will be introduced within the first 100 days of this government and will include a "fair funding" element, ensuring Welsh government spending remains higher per head than in England.

What we won't know for certain until the legislation is published is whether that "fair funding" will depend on the Welsh government triggering a referendum to acquire some control of income tax.

The Wales Office has lost one minister in the election fall-out (the Liberal Democrat Baroness Randerson). We don't know yet whether she'll be replaced - she was the first Lords Wales Office Minister - or if another minister will take the Welsh legislation through the Lords.

I suspect she will be replaced by the former Welsh Tory leader Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth may find himself taking on the next Wales Bill, even if that doesn't appear in the Queen's Speech at the state opening of parliament.

Although Chancellor George Osborne may have promised Welsh legislation within 100 days of the election I understand the view within government is that it is more important to get it right - ministers hope the next Wales Act will last 20 years or more - than meet an early deadline.