Tory Tornado takes on Secretary of State for Wales

He's taken on the gay rights lobby and the Pink Pounder. Today, the Tory Tornado, aka David Davies, was back in his day job chairing parliament's select committee on Welsh affairs.

Before him in the witness seat was David Jones for his first appearance before the committee that monitors his department since being promoted to secretary of state for Wales last September.

So what did we learn from the hour-long session in the Thatcher room? Mr Jones told the committee that he had broadened the Wales office's focus from "dotting constitutional i's and crossing constitutional t's" to prioritising economic growth.

He highlighted the importance of a new nuclear power station at Wylfa on Anglesey and told the MPs he hoped to visit Japan next month to meet the Hitachi board at their invitation to discuss the project.

He said the Wales office now worked more closely with the (Labour-run) Welsh government, particularly on cross-border issues.

He sidestepped a number of questions on the future of devolution, particularly the recent Silk commission report, but admitted that on the issue of Wales gaining income tax powers: "This is in all frankness it is probably the treasury's fiat that is actually going to run so far as this is concerned."

David Davies - no fan of letting Cardiff Bay set income tax rates - asked about the availability of information on how much tax is paid at certain rates by people in Wales.

"Is that Wales only tax information available?" asked Mr Davies, who appeared not to have read table D3 on page 164 of the Silk report. (Aberconwy Tory MP Guto Bebb later filled in the gap)

On the Silk report, Mr Jones said matter-of-factly: "The Silk commission recommendations are now under consideration by the Wales office, the Welsh government and the treasury."

Mr Jones repeatedly played a straight bat, resisting the invitation to dot and cross a few of those constitutional letters, although he said he would have been concerned had the report recommended devolution of corporation tax.

Some policies were "a matter for the Welsh government" or "a matter for the attorney general". He sidestepped a question about whether the National Assembly for Wales was a mature institution.

On other issues, he was occasionally frank - "housing is an issue that has defeated government of both political hues for quite a long time."

He said he only discovered the UK government was hoping to recover more than £100m from the Severn crossings when a transport minister gave evidence to the Welsh affairs committee.

Should police commissioners have deputies? "I think they should be very careful as to public perception of decisions that they make". (Mr Jones's two Wales office deputies are unpaid)

He rejected the idea that the Welsh government should get a share of spending in England on the HS2 project his predecessor is trying to kill off.

Pressed on whether his government governed for the rich, he said a full-time earner on the minimum wage had seen his or her tax bill halve during the last two years.

His emollient performance ("My door is always open to you") may have disappointed critics hoping for a diatribe against devolution to fit in a narrative his opponents have constructed for him.

"Compromise is an extremely good thing," said Mr Jones, who emerged from his encounter with the Tory Tornado with rather fewer scars than the Pink Pounder.