Welsh minister in a muddle over 'Mr Mac ap Jones'

Do you know Mr Mac ap Jones?

Probably not, since he is the creation of the former cabinet minister Lord Richard of Ammanford. Or rather, he might argue that Mr Mac ap Jones is the creation of clause 8 of the Wales Bill, (which had its committee stage in the House of Lords last night).

This is a clause so complicated it left one of parliament's most dedicated scrutinisers of legislation baffled. Lord Rowlands of Merthyr seized on that part of the Bill that explains how Scottish parliamentarians could end up paying Welsh income tax rates.

The clause is four and a half pages long so there isn't space to publish it here. You can study the Bill itself here. For Ted Rowlands, the clause throws up more questions than answers: "Are we talking about a Scottish parliamentarian who would be liable if he or she was also a Welsh parliamentarian in the same tax year?

"Who is this amazing creature? Who has this amazing electoral capacity to serve in one tax year both as a Welsh parliamentarian and a Scottish parliamentarian so that he or she would then be liable to pay tax in Wales? I find it difficult to envisage such a person ever existing."

Lord Richard was also puzzled by the clause: "It is designed to cover a Scottish parliamentarian as well as a Welsh parliamentarian—Mr Mac ap Jones, I suppose we can call him. That individual is covered here in such a way that it is a masterpiece of almost Proustian complexity."

Wales Office Minister Lady Randerson said the rules were "clear, unambiguous and easy for people to follow".

She added: "Before the Lord Rowlands thinks that being a Scottish parliamentarian and a Welsh parliamentarian in the same year is unusual, may I remind him that I call this the 'Keith Raffan clause'? Keith Raffan was an MP in north Wales and then almost immediately an MSP in Scotland. He moved from Wales to Scotland."

Lord Anderson of Swansea : Did he hold both positions in the same tax year?

Lady Randerson: "We are talking about the situation in the past. Keith Raffan moved from Wales to Scotland; he also moved from the Conservative Party to the Liberal Democrats. The whole thing is a relevant example: the thing you would imagine would never happen has already happened."

Lord Rowlands: "I am sorry; I do not know Mr Raffan's parliamentary history? Was Mr Raffan both a European Member and a Member of the Commons in the same tax year?"

Baroness Randerson: "He was an MP and an MSP in the same tax year. I am pretty certain I am right, but the principle is that he moved from Wales to Scotland, straight from one job to the other."

The minister was wrong on both counts. Keith Raffan stepped down as MP for Delyn in 1992. The Scottish Parliament wasn't set up until 1999 - seven years later. That is a very long tax year. Let's hope that getting those basic facts wrong doesn't undermine the actual legislation.

Her fellow Liberal Democrat Lord Thomas of Gresford managed to find a silver lining to the cloud of ministerial confusion: "I spend around 140 days of the year here, about 60 days in my family home in Scotland and the rest of the time in Wales.

"On these formulae, I am not liable to pay income tax in Wales, certainly not in Scotland, and possibly not in England, if we have similar provisions. Thank you very much. Devolve away."