Theresa May grilled over Brexit, powers and Welsh lamb

Theresa May Image copyright HoC
Image caption "We're edging closer and closer" - Theresa May on prospects of a deal with the Welsh Government.

I've been watching Theresa May answer questions from senior MPs (so you don't have to).

Liaison committee sessions often feature relatively civilised exchanges between the chairs of select committees and the prime minister of the day. News is rarely committed but we do get more in-depth discussion and scrutiny of the issues of the day.

Tuesday's session offered a small exception to the rule, in that the prime minister's announcement that her government is looking at moving to a long-term deal on NHS spending in England.

She was also questioned, inevitably, on Russia, defence and Brexit. The chair of the Welsh affairs committee, David Davies, was among her inquisitors although Andrew Neil won't be quaking in his boots after the Monmouth MP's opener.

"There's been a lot of stuff put about that there's some sort of power grab going on from the Welsh Assembly. "Could you just confirm that there's not a single thing that the Welsh Government can do today that it won't be able to do once Brexit has taken place?"

Not unsurprisingly, the prime minister agreed: "Absolutely. We're not taking any powers back from the Welsh Government or indeed the Scottish government. What we're talking about is devolving more powers to the devolved administrations but it's also about making sure that people are able to continue to trade and do business and operate in the UK internal market as they do today."

Mr Davies replied: "I'm actually surprised at how many extra powers are going to the Welsh Government but that's another matter."

'Aggressive'

The SNP chair of the Scottish affairs committee, Pete Wishart, adopted a more aggressive approach, asking if she would try to overrule new "continuity" laws passed in Cardiff and Edinburgh to "protect" the devolution settlement.

She sidestepped the question - three times. Mrs May said she thought that there was "genuine intent" to resolve a dispute between her government and the Welsh and Scottish governments over what happens to European powers in devolved areas like farming and environmental protection. She said there was goodwill on both sides - "we're edging closer and closer" - but further discussions were needed. She said the priority was to maintain the UK's internal market.

Mr Wishart, told the prime minister the way the UK government had tried to resolve devolution issues was "contrary to everything devolution is about".

Later, questioned about farming after Brexit, the prime minister joked about her decision to call last year's general election while hill-walking in Snowdonia.

"I do recognise the importance of Welsh agriculture. I'm tempted to point out that I do see the value of Welsh agriculture to the Welsh landscape quite often when I go walking in Wales although given the decision I took last year I'm not sure that many would welcome my reference to walking in Wales again."

Mr Davies told her: "You're welcome to Monmouthshire any time." If that doesn't get him a job in the next reshuffle, nothing will.

The leave-supporting MP raised concerns about the future of Welsh sheep farmers dependent on exports to France asking for re-assurances that could "minimise any inconvenience as a result of the decision the people of Wales as well as Britain have taken" .

Mrs May talked about exploring new markets around the world for Welsh lamb which she said was "very good". Mr Davies offered "a cheap plug" to the Co-Op for stocking Welsh lamb all year round but the prime minister said she preferred to buy her meat from her local independent butcher rather than a supermarket.