There could be further embarrassment for the Welsh Conservatives in the Senedd chamber this afternoon. The group had agreed to abstain on a Plaid Cymru amendment opposing UK Government plans for income tax devolution.
Click here for more details and here for further background on the difficulties this issue has caused the party. But I understand some of the still-disgruntled of four AMs (or five depending on who you include!) could vote against the amendment.
To the outside world it may seem a minute distinction but with an already tense atmosphere within the group it could once again make its split painfully public on an occasion when both Welsh Secretary David Jones and Welsh Tory leader Andrew RT Davies will be in the Senedd chamber at the same time.
Welsh Secretary David Jones will today exercise his right to sit and speak (though not vote) in the Assembly for its debate on the Queen's Speech, including changes to devolution that involve giving income tax raising powers to the Welsh Government, subject to approval in a referendum.
They'll be limited by the so-called "lockstep", which requires any changes to affect all bands of income tax. It's an issue that's split the Welsh Conservatives. Four Tory AMs were sacked as shadow ministers for abstaining in a vote, although party policy in Cardiff Bay is against the lockstep.
They argued that Conservative AMs shouldn't oppose what the Welsh Secretary is doing at Westminster, even when he's out of line with what they've decided. There will be another vote today, when all Conservatives are due to abstain, rather than embarrass the Welsh Secretary when he's in the Senedd.
The Welsh Conservative leader has welcomed his party's income tax proposals for Scotland, describing them as a 'game changer.' Andrew RT Davies says the announcement supported arguments that he and colleagues in the Assembly have been making about tax powers for Wales.
He wouldn't be drawn on whether or not the UK Government's income tax proposals for Wales should be changed as a consequence, saying that was a matter for MPs and Peers. But he said the Scottish plans were 'significant' and that he'd spoken to Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson about them.
The proposed income tax devolution set out in the Wales Bill has led to a row between Mr Davies and the Welsh Secretary David Jones and a split amongst Welsh Conservatives which led to four Assembly front benchers being sacked.
The Welsh Conservative Leader says the First Minister should hold talks with NHS campaigner Ann Clwyd rather than criticising her. Carwyn Jones dismissed the call from Andrew RT Davies because he said Ms Clwyd had produced 'no evidence' to support her concerns.
“Instead of condemning Ann Clwyd for speaking out, Carwyn Jones and Welsh Labour should be listening carefully and acting on her fears.
Each and every time Mrs Clwyd has raised concerns – they have been proved correct.
I have asked the First Minister if he will work with me to facilitate joint discussions with Ann Clwyd – and, despite his response - I will continue to work towards this aim.
Case after case. Fault after fault. The deeply ingrained problems within Labour’s NHS are clear for all to see. 28,000 people – or a town the size of Pontypridd – had been waiting more than eight weeks for diagnostic services at the end of January. The First Minister’s shocking refusal to acknowledge this is a matter of great regret. Welsh communities deserve to see these problems being appropriately dealt with and cross-party discussions with Ann Clwyd can help achieve this.
Questions to the First Minister from Party LeadersRead the full story ›
The Welsh Conservatives have called for a delay in the introduction of Wales-only GCSEs after some schools reported unexpectedly poor results from the January English GCSE exams.
The Leader of the Opposition, Andrew RT Davies, accused the First Minister of ignoring educational expertise and failing to trust teachers. He said the Welsh Government has ignored calls from the WJEC exam board to delay the introduction of new GCSE courses, currently scheduled for September.
Labour is ploughing on with plans for new Wales-only qualifications in the face of opposition from educational experts and organisations playing a critical role in the implementation of the new GCSEs. The massive decline in GCSE performance in the January 2014 results raises many concerns about new Wales-only qualifications and whether the Welsh Government needs to separate the roles of regulator and awarding body. A child only has one shot at their education and the grades achieved in exams will remain on someone’s CV for life.
Earlier the Education Minister, Huw Lewis, said that of the 102 schools that entered more than 20 pupils in January, only 36 had reported an unexpectedly poor performance. But his Conservative shadow rejected his claim that she was opposing the policy of introducing more rigour into exams.
It is critical that qualifications are robust and internationally-recognised as high calibre. Rushing in new GCSEs without sufficient forethought risks dumbing down our education system. The Welsh Government should not be so arrogant as to ignore the advice of educational experts and plough on with such a major departure from previous qualifications. It’s disappointing that Labour Ministers have been so reluctant to make information about the GCSE English Language qualification publicly available, which has increased uncertainty further.
The Welsh Conservative leader says it will be difficult to reach consensus on proposals for further devolution set out in a major report this week. Andrew RT Davies said he feared crime would go up if the Welsh Government were given control of policing.
The Opposition leader said he would 'really struggle to advocate' some of the changes recommended in the second part of the Silk Commission's report although he wasn't saying 'no' to all of its proposals.
And he repeated his commitment to the first part of the report which recommended transferring some tax and borrowing powers. That, he said, was 'the missing piece of the devolution jigsaw.'
The Welsh Conservatives have limited themselves to thanking Paul Silk and his commission for its work, without commenting on any of the recommendations.
There have been arguments over the detail of the commission's earlier proposals on tax between Welsh Secretary David Jones and the Tories' Assembly leader, Andrew RT Davies. Those disagreements have only just been smoothed over after the Prime Minister met his party's AMs and MPs.
Today, Mr Davies simply called on all political parties to study the recommendations in detail "with the aim of achieving cross party consensus on the way forward".
The Conservatives are calling for an urgent response from the Welsh Government to the concerns about Welsh hospital death rates raised by English NHS medical director Sir Bruce Keogh.
The concerns raised in this email confirm our serious worries over standards of care in the NHS.Professor Keogh’s recommendation of ‘investigation’ into mortality rates should be immediately undertaken and no longer ignored. It is a matter of great regret that Carwyn Jones and Welsh Labour appear to have dismissed the advice provided by this leading expert.For the sake of future generations - Welsh Conservatives have long called for a Keogh-style inquiry into NHS standards of care.I sincerely hope that this will now take place.
Professor Keogh’s comments are further proof of extremely serious problems within the Welsh NHS.If this leading expert has offered assistance and raised concerns over a potential cover-up – he should not be ignored.I am staggered at reports that his correspondence has gone unanswered and I urge Labour’s First Minister to clarify these reports as soon as possible.
Mortality rates in Wales are of huge concern and I have long raised questions over recent misleading statistics. NHS Wales has suffered catastrophically from Labour’s record-breaking budget cuts. Queuing ambulances, bed blocking, rocketing waiting lists and missed response times continue to throw the service into crisis.A Keogh-style inquiry would address serious concerns and see structures put in place to protect communities.
Welsh Conservative leader Andrew RT Davies explains why he sacked four of his Assembly Members from the Shadow Cabinet. When I asked him if he's worried about the prospect of a leadership challenge, he said simply, 'Do I look worried?'