Coalition tensions over Welsh funding deal

Nick Clegg and Kirsty Williams Image copyright Lib Dem Voice
Image caption Nick Clegg and Kirsty Williams

Who blocked an attempt by the coalition to tie a new funding deal for the Welsh government with a commitment to hold a referendum on income tax powers?

The leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats, Kirsty Williams, says it was she - and that it was the Lib Dems' coalition partners who insisted on the explicit link.

Her version of events is - to put it mildly - disputed at Westminster.

As I reported last month, the initial offer from the UK government had strings attached. Those strings were later cut after the Welsh Lib Dems threw their toys out of the pram.

But that was only after the referendum link had apparently been agreed by the deputy Prime Minister (and Lib Dem leader) Nick Clegg and (Lib Dem) Treasury Chief Secretary Danny Alexander.

There are even suggestions from Conservative sources that senior Lib Dem ministers wanted to go further - and require a Welsh government commitment to campaign for a "yes" vote in that referendum.

But Kirsty Williams has presented the proposed link as a dastardly Conservative plot, telling us: "I do not think it is reasonable for the Tories to say you can only deal with Wales's under-funding if you have that income tax referendum.

"That's why I blocked that announcement when that was being proposed from London to make sure that's not the case."

She may have opposed the explicit link but so, I'm told, did Welsh Secretary Stephen Crabb. It appears they were both on the same side of the argument arguing against senior figures in their own - and each other's - parties.

Coalition 2.0 anyone?

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