The Lords, the Barnett formula and 'Einion the Traitor'

Lord Lisvane
Image caption Lord Lisvane - former House of Commons clerk Sir Robert Rogers - has made his maiden speech in the House of Lords

Students of the Barnett formula will be relieved that it is back on the agenda at Westminster. The formula, funding for Wales and devolution featured prominently during Monday's House of Lords debate in the Queen's Speech.

New Scotland Office Minister Lord Dunlop, in his maiden speech, updated peers on the UK government's plans for further devolution.

"For Wales, we are committed to implementing the St David's Day agreement in full. A Wales bill will be introduced later in this Session. It will provide a new, reserved-powers model for Welsh devolution to help clarify the assembly's powers.

"It will devolve additional powers in areas such as transport, energy, the environment and local government, and enable the assembly to decide how it organises itself and its elections and regulates its own proceedings. The bill provides a robust package that will make the Welsh devolution settlement clear, sustainable and stable for the future."

Before his elevation to the Lords, Andrew Dunlop was a special adviser in Downing Street and well-placed to understand the confusion between the Conservatives' UK manifesto and their Welsh one. Indeed, a Conservative source suggested he was involved in the writing of the passage in the UK document that implied "fair funding" for Wales would be dependent on the Welsh government holding a referendum to acquire income-tax powers.

This is what Lord Dunlop told the Lords: "For Wales, the UK government will introduce a floor in the level of relative funding they provide to the Welsh Government. The details will be agreed at the next spending review in the expectation [my emphasis] that the Welsh government will call a referendum on income-tax powers in this parliament."

Lord Dunlop wasn't the only peer to deliver his maiden speech in the debate. Former Commons clerk Lord Lisvane (Sir Robert Rogers, as was) told peers: "I had no difficulty in choosing Lisvane as my title. My parents and I were born in the parish or on its borders—it lies to the north of Cardiff. My grandparents are in the churchyard, and my great-uncle's name is on the Lisvane war memorial. The centenary of his death on the Somme falls next year.

'Einion the Traitor'

"I may not sound Welsh but, time out of mind, all my forebears have come from the Welsh Marches—with the single exception of a Danish great-great-grandmother, who was no doubt brought in to provide what my farmer neighbours in Herefordshire would call "hybrid vigour".

"My mother's family trace their descent from Einion ap Collwyn, a rather flaky 11th-century chieftain who was known as Einion the Traitor because he is supposed to have let the Normans into Wales, no doubt for money. Clearly he was an early opponent of devolution."

Lord Lisvane supported what some call a constitutional convention, suggesting it was time for "a comprehensive examination of the distribution of powers within the United Kingdom and, crucially, the processes for exercising those powers".

He also raised an issue that will be high on the Westminster agenda - how to stop the Palace of Westminster falling down. "We will be faced with some agonising decisions. Whether we go for so-called super-aggressive maintenance, a "Cox and Box" decant or a full decant—and it is quite important that both houses agree on the same solution—the outcome will be uncomfortable."