The last Welsh Questions as MPs say their farewells

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Media captionThe ICM survey found 34% of voters preferred David Cameron over Ed Miliband as Prime Minister

It may be an overstatement to call it the end of an era but today saw the last Welsh Questions in the House of Commons before the general election.

Some of the arguments may have been a dress rehearsal for the official election campaign but it was also a bit of a "leaving do" for the eight MPs from Wales who are standing down in May.

There were warm words from Welsh Secretary Stephen Crabb: "All eight have served their constituencies with distinction and played a vital role in making the case for Wales, as I know they will continue to do outside this house. We wish them all the very best."

His deputy Alun Cairns joined in the tributes to the departing Elfyn Llwyd: "With permission Mr Speaker, a gaf i dalu teyrnged i'r aelod gwir anrhydeddus? I would like to pay tribute to the right hon. Gentleman for his service in this House over many years, and for the way in which he has led his party here."

Plaid Cymru's parliamentary leader was touched: "Diolch i'r gweinidog am ei eiriau caredig. I will help Hansard with the spelling later."

'Election slogans'

But for those hoping to stay on after May, there's an election to be won. Shadow Welsh Secretary Owen Smith gave voters a glimpse of Labour's campaign: "The truth is that of the 100,000 new jobs in Wales, as the Office for National Statistics said last week, 90,000 are zero-hours contracts paying, on average, £300 less per week than full-time jobs.

"As the Institute for Fiscal Studies said this morning, the average family incomes of workers in Wales have declined under this Government. Why does the secretary of state not say the one thing he can to workers from Pwllheli to Pembrokeshire that would give them hope: vote Labour?"

Stephen Crabb: "If you think that is any kind of boon for the Welsh economy, I point you to the opinion poll conducted by BBC Wales which this morning shows that a majority of voters across Wales, even in the Labour heartlands—from Rhondda to Cynon Valley, from Caerphilly to Pontypridd—prefer my right hon. friend the prime minister to remain as leader rather than the leader of the opposition."

Some election slogans were rehearsed - with Mr Crabb trying out "business-led recovery" alongside "long-term economic plan". There was a brief discussion of the merits of jobs programmes introduced by governments in Wales and Westminster, another sign that the economy will be centre stage in the campaign.

There were only passing references to last week's ("historic" - David Cameron) St David's Day agreement, despite the continuing arguments over its contents.

The next Welsh Questions - if the post of secretary of state survives the post-election cabinet-making - may not take place before June.

You can read the Hansard account of today's exchanges here.