Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg has insisted he is 'sceptical' about the idea of paying different salary levels to public sector workers in different parts of the UK.
His comments come ahead of Welsh Lib Dem efforts to persuade the party to halt plans for regional pay.
And they appear to be at odds with earlier support for the plans from fellow Lib Dem minister Danny Alexander.Mr Clegg told political editor Adrian masters:
– Nick Clegg MP, Liberal Democrat Leader
No decision has been taken. We will not take any decision unless there is overwhelming evidence that it helps everybody and if there isn't, I've set the bar very high, of course we won't do this.
Our political editor Adrian masters asked Liberal Democrat leader if he'll apologise to Welsh Lib Dems for heavy losses in May's council elections.
Speaking at the party's conference in Brighton, Mr Clegg said:
– Nick Clegg MP, Deputy Prime Minsiter
I totally accept that in a place like Wales whose heart has always beat on the left that seeing Liberal Democrats ... go into a coalition with the Conservatives has put some people off.
But what I would say is this: when the British people voted in 2010 they decided no one had won an absolute majority. Now we could have retreated and thrown stones at each other but that wouldn't have helped in creating jobs, wouldn't have helped deliver more apprenticeships in Wales in the way we have done.
The first-ever Lib Dem Wales Office minister will provide a 'distinctive, Welsh Liberal Democrat voice' at the heart of government, according to the Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg. And he's defended the decision not to pay Baroness Randerson, who was appointed in this week's reshuffle.
Mr Clegg also refused to say whether or not the Wales Office should drop its proposals for changing the way the Assembly is elected, despite his opposition to boundary changes planned for Westminster elections. 'These things will play themselves out,' he said.
The Deputy Prime Minister has laughed off accusations that his visit harms rather than helps his party's by-election campaign in Cardiff South and Penarth. Nick Clegg has been in the Welsh capital today to lend his support to the Liberal Democrat candidate.
He's acknowledged that difficult decisions taken in government and simply being in government has cost his party votes. But I asked him if that unpopularity made it difficult for him to campaign effectively.
After all, his last visit in April failed to stop the Lib Dems losing control of Cardiff council. His encounter with the Cardiff City football mascot didn't help the Bluebirds either. This was his reply:
Shadow Welsh Secretary Owen Smith MP has claimed that Nick Clegg's decision to oppose cutting the number of MPs has exposed the Coalition's divisions. He has called on Cheryl Gillan to drop her own plans for changing the way that the Assembly is elected.
This exposes what boundary changes were about all along – a cynical attempt from the Tories to gerrymander the results of the next election. In Wales, we were set to lose a quarter of our MPs, more so than anywhere else in the UK, and the Lib Dems were more than content to go along with this. But now the Tories have reneged on Lords reform, Nick Clegg has delivered the latest in a long line of government u-turns.
– Shadow Welsh Secretary Owen Smith MP
It’s almost beyond belief that the Coalition can treat such important constitutional issues with a complete absence of principle. They’re in total disarray and this open warfare between the two Coalition parties ill-serves our national interest. I trust that Cheryl Gillan – who has treated constitutional issues with similar disdain – will now also drop her own disgraceful attempt to rig the electoral map in Wales and I, along with the First Minister, am writing to her to demand that she do so.
The Welsh Government has responded swiftly to Nick Clegg's announcement, seeing an opportunity to halt any possible changes to how the Assembly is elected, even before consultation is complete on the proposals put forward in a Green Paper by the Welsh Secretary, Cheryl Gillan.
– Welsh Government Spokesman
Given there is now every likelihood that the UK Government will drop its plans to cut the number of Welsh MPs, the First Minister will be writing to the Secretary of State for Wales asking where this now leaves her Green Paper.
Last week, the Welsh Government formally opposed changing from a system of 40 constituency AMs and 20 elected from regional lists to the Welsh Secretary's preferred option of 30 constituency and 30 regional AMs. It said any change should be a matter for the Assembly itself to decide.
Plans to get rid of a quarter of the Welsh seats at Westminster, cutting the number of MPs from 40 to 30, look unlikely to go ahead. Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg says his party will vote against reducing the membership of the House of Commons and making constituencies more equal in population.
Mr Clegg, who was in charge of the legislation to reduce and equalise parliamentary seats, says the Lib Dems will now block the change after rebel Conservative MPs sabotaged his plans to reform the House of Lords. He says they have 'broken the contract' between the coalition partners.
– Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg MP
The Conservative party is not honouring the commitment to Lords reform and, as a result, part of our contract has now been broken. Clearly I cannot permit a situation where Conservative rebels can pick and choose the parts of the contract they like, while Liberal Democrat MPs are bound to the entire agreement. Coalition works on mutual respect; it is a reciprocal arrangement, a two-way street. So I have told the Prime Minister that when, in due course, parliament votes on boundary changes for the 2015 election I will be instructing my party to oppose them.
The Prime Minister had wanted the boundary changes to go ahead, partly because the current pattern of constituencies favours Labour. The Welsh Secretary, Cheryl Gillan, has proposed that there should be consequential changes to Assembly constituencies. Her consultation closes next Monday.
The First Minister says he's told the Deputy Prime Minister that plans by the Welsh Secretary to review the way AMs are elected are 'fundamentally undemocratic.' Carwyn Jones raised his opposition to Cheryl Gillan's Green Paper on electoral reform at a meeting chaired by Nick Clegg earlier.
– Carwyn Jones AM, First Minister
I made sure that it was seen as a very serious issue. The Deputy Prime Minister understood it was a very serious issue and we'll explore this further.
When she launched the review earlier this week, the Welsh Secretary dismissed calls for decision-making power over electoral systems in Wales to be devolved. She said that in two years there had been no request for any such transfer. Carwyn Jones responded:
– Carwyn Jones AM, First Minister
We don't want to see any change. Nobody has a mandate for change. Nobody thought we'd have a Green Paper such as this in this age of devolution, seeking to impose change on the people of Wales without their consent. We thought we were beyond those days and the Prime Minister has given me assurances there'd be no change without the agreement of the Assembly.