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Powers plan on course despite disagreement says Crabb

The Wales Bill would change the powers of the National Assembly and the Welsh Government Photo:

UK Government plans to change the powers of the National Assembly are still on track and there's a good chance of reaching agreement despite a 'difference of principle' according to the Welsh Secretary.

But the Welsh Government is less optimistic, saying 'it would be difficult to come to a settlement' without agreement on the main sticking-point.

Stephen Crabb was speaking after holding talks in Cardiff with First Minister Carwyn Jones and the Assembly's Presiding Officer, Rosemary Butler.

He said he aims to publish the draft Wales Bill, which will introduce the changes, next week.

Carwyn Jones had previously called for the postponement of its publication because of disagreements.

But Stephen Crabb said today's talks were 'purposeful, constructive discussions.' He said there's a 'long way to go' but 'enough of a basis of pragmatism, goodwill and mutual understanding to get the job done.

Welsh Government sources had warned that far from boosting the powers of the Assembly, the bill would have the opposite effect and 'roll back' devolution.

In the video clip below, Stephen Crabb tells me why meeting those concerns is his top priority.

He refused to speculate on whether or not the UK Government will push ahead with the legislation even if the Welsh Government and the Assembly disagree.

One of the main sticking points is thought to be the question of creating a separate legal jurisdiction for Wales. Stephen Crabb's comments suggest the UK Government is standing firm in its opposition to such a move but that the bill will 'find a way to allow the Welsh Government to create and enforce offences without fundamentally revising the principles of England and Wales law.'

A spokesperson for the First Minister issued a terse response which hinted at the difficulties which remain:

It was a constructive discussion. It will be difficult to come to a settlement without properly addressing the issue of a single jurisdiction, but talks will continue.

– First Minister's spokesperson

The draft Wales Bill is due to be published next week and will be followed by pre-legislative scrutiny and a widespread consultation. It's expected that the full bill will be published in February. It could become law by early 2017.