Cairns challenged to quit over Brexit

Liz Saville Roberts Image copyright Houses of Parliament
Image caption 'At next week’s Royal Welsh show, will the Secretary of State announce his resignation....?' - Liz Saville Roberts

The temperature remains feverish, the atmosphere remains febrile. But away from the chaotic debates on Brexit and whether or not MPs should have a longer summer break, Alun Cairns has been answering MPs' questions for the last time before the recess.

The Welsh secretary has become something of a social media pantomime villain recently amid calls for his resignation over the government's failure to support the proposed Swansea Bay tidal lagoon and the naming of the second Severn crossing after the Prince of Wales.

Plaid Cymru's Westminster leader, Liz Saville Roberts, added her voice to the calls for his resignation at question time, suggesting he should follow Aberconwy MP Guto Bebb in quitting over Brexit.

Mr Cairns found some warm words for Mr Bebb before defending the Chequers agreement, suggesting it "provides a frictionless trading opportunity for Welsh farmers that will allow them to continue to sell Welsh beef and lamb, and other Welsh produce, to the European Union as they do at the moment".

Welsh Questions often offers MPs an opportunity to condemn the decision to scrap plans to electrify the rail line between Cardiff and Swansea. Today the focus was on the current train service.

Former Welsh Secretary Stephen Crabb said it had been a total shambles last Sunday. "Thousands of passengers faced cancelled or disrupted trains due to staffing problems arising from the World Cup final? England did not qualify for the final and we were not even at the tournament, so it should not have led to meltdown on the rail network last Sunday."

Wales Office Minister Stuart Andrew suggested a meeting so they could take it up "with the people responsible" (i.e. not us).

'Broken'

Curiously, not a single Welsh Labour MP featured among the 15 MPs who appeared on the order paper to ask questions. The MPs are chosen by ballot. Perhaps the 28 Welsh Labour MPs were unlucky in the draw although others questioned whether they had actually submitted any questions.

That did not, of course, prevent Welsh Labour MPs from trying to catch the Speaker's eye, and shadow Welsh Secretary Christina Rees and her deputy Chris Ruane both, as usual, got to ask questions from the despatch box.

Christina Rees wanted to know why the white paper on Brexit was not shared with the Welsh Government until barely 12 hours before publication.

"After two years of broken promises on Brexit talks," she asked, "who should the people of Wales blame for the contempt shown to them - the prime minister, the secretary of state for Wales or both?"

Alun Cairns said the UK government had shared the drafting of the white paper with ministers in Cardiff. He might also have added, although he didn't, that some UK ministers didn't get to see the document until after their counterparts in Wales.

Away from the Commons, Anna Soubry has suggested that Plaid Cymru could join a "government of national unity". Plaid Cymru in Wales have often opposed a coalition with the Conservatives; at Westminster Jonathan Edwards MP suggested that if it took a cross-party government to keep the UK in the single market and the customs union "so be it".