Wales Office minister finds his voice in Commons debut

Stephen Crabb is a Conservative MP who, for most of his parliamentary career, has been seen and not heard.

He has spoken in the Commons twice since the coalition government took power more than two years ago.

The convention is that whips stay silent, although he has been called on to put the government case during a couple of debates.

Mr Crabb remains a whip but in his other (new) job as a junior Wales Office minister he will be heard in the Commons more often.

Today, he made his debut in the role, responding to a debate under the snappy title of "progress of bilateral discussions between the UK and Welsh governments on financial matters".

The debate was led by Plaid Cymru's Hywel Williams who identified a number of areas in which he felt Wales didn't get enough money from the treasury.

Mr Crabb told him those "bilateral discussions" between Whitehall and Cardiff on the way the Welsh government is funded were reaching their conclusion and an announcement would be made in the near future.

But if Mr Williams was hoping there was a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow marked Barnett formula he left disappointed.

The population-based formula decides changes in more than half of public spending in Wales but Mr Crabb said: "Any reform of the Barnett formula cannot take place in the current environment." Talks between the two governments were not looking at alternatives.

Montgomeryshire MP Glyn Davies, free of his duties as a ministerial bag carrier, said the formula delivered "a huge overpayment to Scotland - the only way of resolving the issue is if you deal with Scotland and Wales at same time".

That is not the sort of argument likely to go down well in the joint Plaid-SNP group at Westminster but Mr Williams insisted: "We should do whatever it takes to reform it."

Will you tell Alex Salmond or shall I?