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Fresh attempt to settle rail electrification row

New Welsh Secretary Stephen Crabb turns to one of the items at the top of his in-tray today -the row between the Welsh and UK governments over who pays for the electrification of the Valley lines. Ministers in Cardiff Bay say Mr Crabb's predecessors, Cheryl Gillan and David Jones, were quick to claim the credit for the giving the multi-million pound project the go ahead, so there's no way that the bill should be passed on.

Today Mr Crabb will hold talks with this cabinet colleague, the Transport Secretary, Patrick McLoughlin. The Transport Department argues that as the Welsh Government manages the Wales and Borders rail franchise, it should be responsible for repaying the cost. That would mean either funding a bigger subsidy or putting up the fares.

Only yesterday, the Prime Minister defended what he saw as a done deal but ITV news understands that there might at least be a concession over how quickly the money needs to be repaid. A senior Welsh Government source was also optimistic that the dispute could soon be settled.

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Alun Cairns is new junior minister

Downing Street has confirmed that Vale of Glamorgan MP Alun Cairns is the new junior minister at the Wales Office. He takes over the role from the new Secretary of State, Stephen Crabb.

As was the case when Mr Crabb held the post, Mr Cairns will also be a government whip and do the Wales Office job part time. Both men are Conservative MPs, with the Liberal Democrat peer Baroness Randerson completing the Wales Office ministerial team.

First Minister's hopes for "pragmatic" Welsh Secretary

First Minister Carwyn Jones has told AMs that the Welsh Government does "very much welcome what we hope will be a new approach" from Stephen Crabb.

He said Welsh ministers had found the new Secretary of State "pragmatic and reasonable" to deal with during his time as a junior minister at the Wales Office.

Mr Jones added that he hoped the Welsh Government and the UK Department of Transport can move forward on Valleys rail electrification with the help of the new Secretary of State. There's disagreement between the two governments on which of them should pay for the project.

Crabb takes office with tribute to David Jones

New Welsh Secretary Stephen Crabb has paid tribute to his predecessor as he becomes the 17th Secretary of State for Wales.

It is a huge privilege to join the Cabinet as Secretary of State for Wales. As a government, we are ambitious for Wales and determined that Wales should be at the forefront of the UK economic recovery. I will be working closely with my colleagues in the UK and Welsh governments to see new opportunities created for Wales. People and businesses across Wales want to see the two governments working together effectively and delivering the investment our nation needs. I believe that Wales deserves the best and I look forward to providing a strong voice for Wales around the Cabinet table.

I will build on the excellent work of my predecessor, David Jones, who achieved so much during his time as Welsh Secretary. He leaves a strong legacy to Wales, not least in breaking new ground in the devolution settlement by devolving tax powers to Wales. He also worked hard to secure new investment for the new nuclear power station at Wylfa, the new prison in Wrexham and reopening the Halton Curve line between Liverpool and North Wales.

It is a massive honour to be the first Welsh Secretary of State from Pembrokeshire since Nick Edwards in the 1980s. I have an opportunity now to work hard for the whole of Wales in the same way I have always sought to do for Pembrokeshire. The first priority of any MP, regardless of their position in government, is to put the needs of their constituency first and I will always do this for Preseli Pembrokeshire.

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Barbed Labour welcome for new Welsh Secretary

New Welsh Secretary Stephen Crabb has been welcomed to his post as "the third Secretary of State for Wales in the last 22 months" by his Labour shadow, Owen Smith, who says it time for the Conservatives to end what Labour call the Tories' "war on Wales".

He's called on Mr Crabb to "break free from the ceaseless negativity that has characterised his predecessors’ attitude to Wales and the achievements of the Welsh Government". Mr Smith has also drawn attention to the new Secretary of State's past doubts about devolution.

I have written to the new Secretary of State today to formally offer my congratulations, but also to call on him to go into the new job with the aim of standing up for our nation, rather than indulging in politicised attacks on Wales, with the aim of winning votes in England. The Wales Office can play a vital role in being the voice of Wales at Westminster, but it has recently been reduced to a crude propaganda machine attacking the very country it is supposed to represent, as a proxy for attacking the wider Labour Party.

Speaking from the steps of 10 Downing Street Mr Crabb has this morning pledged to ‘work hard for Wales’. I hope and trust that will be the case, and that the war on Wales might end on his watch. Mr Crabb shares with his predecessor a long stated scepticism about the value of devolution, calling it in the past a form of ‘constitutional vandalism’, and he will thus face legitimate questions about his commitment to the devolved settlement and his desire to take it forward.

He not long ago lamented that it was no longer saleable ‘to call for the abolition of the devolved institutions’. Let’s hope he takes a more enlightened view now he’s responsible for them. A key test for Mr Crabb in this regard will be whether he supports the Silk Commission and Labour’s view that our country should have the same, ‘reserved’ model of devolved powers as those applied in Scotland.

– Shadow Welsh Secretary Owen Smith MP

Wales Office minister 'sorry' to see Andrews go

The Conservative Wales Office minister Stephen Crabb has posted on twitter his reaction to Leighton Andrews' resignation.

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Sorry to see @leightonandrews leave Welsh Gov. One of the few with genuine ambition for ending the slide in Welsh educational standards

Crabb: Thatcher 'had a great affection for Wales'

As MPs and peers pay tribute to Margaret Thatcher, Wales Office minister Stephen Crabb tells Political Editor Adrian Masters how her 'right to buy' scheme for council house tenants, inspired him when he was growing up 'in a council house in West Wales.'

And he dismisses suggestions that the former Prime Minister caused distress to communities in Wales, saying that she 'had a great affection for Wales.'

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