David Cameron unveils marriage tax breaks plan

 
Wedding rings The prime minister said some four million couples would benefit from the move

Plans for some married couples to get tax breaks worth up to £200 a year have been announced by David Cameron.

The prime minister said four million couples would benefit from a £1,000 transferable tax allowance from 2015.

The move, announced ahead of the Tory conference, comes after a deal with the Liberal Democrats to introduce free school meals for children under eight.

Labour said Mr Cameron was "out of touch" if he thought the people would get married "for £3.85 a week".

The tax break would apply if couples are both basic rate tax payers with one spouse earning less than the personal allowance - the amount of income you can receive each year without having to pay tax on it. This will be just over £10,000 in 2015.

The measure would also include 15,000 couples in civil partnerships.

The basic tax rate of 20% is currently in place for up to £32,010 of taxable income. That means that - including a personal allowance - at current rates people would have to earn less than £41,451 a year to be eligible.

'Happiest day'

Benefits from the scheme would come through initially at the end of the tax year in 2016.

David Cameron: "Other countries recognise marriage properly in the tax system and that's what we're doing"

Writing in the Daily Mail, Mr Cameron said: "I believe in marriage. Alongside the birth of my children, my wedding was the happiest day of my life.

"Since then, Samantha and I have been a team. Nothing I've done since - becoming a Member of Parliament, leader of my party or prime minister - would have been possible without her.

"There is something special about marriage: it's a declaration of commitment, responsibility and stability that helps to bind families.

"The values of marriage are give and take, support and sacrifice - values that we need more of in this country."

He later tweeted: "The £1000 marriage tax allowance will apply to straight and gay couples, as well as civil partners. Love is love, commitment is commitment."

Election pledge

The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby praised the initiative, saying in a statement: "We welcome all support for married life and we're pleased that this initiative includes both married couples and those in civil partnerships."

Mr Cameron said stay-at-home mothers and women who worked part-time would be the main winners.

Analysis

David Cameron and the Conservative party made a solemn commitment eight years ago.

He told them marriage should be recognised in the tax system.

Come the 2010 election campaign he renewed his vow.

Some backbenchers doubted he would make good on his pledge in this parliament.

As their conference begins, they are reassured, although they will fight for the tax break to be bigger in future.

The prime minister says he is not trying to bribe people to to get married or engage in social engineering.

Critics will ask why the government should spend £700m a year on a policy that is not designed to change anyone's behaviour.

Explaining how the scheme would work, he wrote: "From April 2015, if neither of you are higher rate taxpayers, you will be able to transfer £1,000 of your tax-free allowance to your spouse.

"In effect, if you pay the basic rate of tax and your partner doesn't use all of their personal allowance, you'll be able to have some of it.

"Most couples who benefit will be £200 a year better off as a result."

He promised tax breaks for married couples when he ran for the leadership of his party in 2005, and it was also part of the Conservative election manifesto in 2010.

The Liberal Democrats are opposed to the measure but under the coalition agreement they would not be able to vote against it in any parliamentary vote but could abstain.

The party's Treasury spokesman Stephen Williams branded the move "a tax cut for some, paid for by everyone else".

He said: "You don't build a fairer society by using the tax system to favour one type of family over another.

"We should support all families, not just the minority of married ones where one person stays at home."

It has been suggested the Lib Dems were able to announce plans for every child in England between reception and year two to get free school lunches in exchange for the Conservative's proposed tax break.

The free school meals policy will begin in September next year and will be worth about £437 per child.

Paul Johnson, director of the Institute for Fiscal Studies said that each political party had launched policies which were roughly equal in their cost.

"So the Liberal Democrats had something on free school meals, Labour had something on childcare, the Conservatives have got something on tax allowances," he said.

"Each one is a small lollipop in the context of £25bn of cuts being expected over the following two years - none of them have said much about how they're going to do that."

'All families'

Labour said the Conservatives were "out of touch" and the move was outweighed by higher VAT and cuts to child benefit and tax credits.

Ed Miliband's party said around two-thirds of married couples would not save money under the plans, including higher rate taxpayers and couples in which both partners earn more than the personal allowance.

Shadow chief secretary to the Treasury Rachel Reeves said: "The vast majority of children will see their parents get not a single extra penny from this so if you are a mum and dad and you're both earning £20,000-£25,000 a year, so on average earnings, you won't get any extra support.

"So it's not a proper tax allowance for married couples. And even for those who do benefit it's just £3.85 a week."

But Conservative Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said the policy recognised the value of the institution of marriage.

"It is an institution that is the building block of our society and we want to recognise that and this is a measure that's going to help four million hard working couples where life is pretty tough."

Dr Samantha Callan, the director of families at the think tank Centre for Social Justice that seeks to address poverty and its causes, also welcomed the announcement.

"We've been calling for this since 2007," she said.

"We did a report into the state of the nation and why family breakdown is such a problem in the UK today. Half of all children born today will not still be with both their parents by the time they're 15 and marriage is a more durable relationship."

She added: "Ninety-three percent of all couples still together by the time the child is 15 are married."

'Promoting a fantasy'

Tim Yeo, the Conservative MP for South Suffolk, told BBC Radio Suffolk that while he welcomed any institutions that support stability in society, in 2013 marriage "is not the only model for a family".

"I don't see why, for example, someone who has been widowed, whether it's a man or a woman, at a young age, and is trying to bring up children perhaps on a relatively low income, I regret the fact that the current proposal may exclude those people," he said.

Campaign group Don't Judge My Family criticised the move as "promoting a fantasy 1950s family" and it would not benefit many of the families who needed most support..

The Conservative Party conference takes place in Manchester from Sunday. Mr Cameron will close the conference with his keynote speech on Wednesday.

 

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  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 198.

    Your taxes as a married couple might go down, but government spending doesn't magically balance itself. If you're going to be spending less in taxes that means one of the following:

    - I'm going to pay more tax.
    - Someone else is going to pay more tax.
    - Government is going to borrow more.
    - Government is going to cut further.

    Something has to make up the difference when state revenue is reduced.

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 197.

    I am sure this was an election pledge in 2010.
    Must have been "code" for selling off the NHS.
    So who knows what it means this time round.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 196.

    On the face of it seems a pretty weak policy. Why not go the whole way and allow married couples to pool their allowances and be taxed on combined income? The current system is unfair to couples where 1 partner earns much more than the other. Take 2 couples with a combined income of 60k. Couple 1 earn 30k each, where couple 2 have 55k plus 5k to reach the same total, but pay an extra £2500 tax.

  • rate this
    +7

    Comment number 195.

    No, Mr Cameron. It won't benefit most stay at home moms and dads. To be a stay at home parent you generally need a partner who is earning enough to pay the mortgage and all the household bills. Those of us who are lucky enough to be in that situation will almost certainly be earning more than 41k. We are actually the ones in danger of, or losing, our child benefit. Much worse off. Thanks.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 194.

    I work long hours and have 2 jobs which takes my pay just into the higher rate of tax and my wife has a part time job.My colleague and his wife earn approx £40k each which means they will be entitled to this tax break even although their joint income is far greater than ours, I lost out with child benefit when my colleague did'nt and now its happening all over again.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 193.

    168 Peter Birch
    They do indeed "get it"but wish to treat the electorate in the usual manner!
    I'll give some of you £200 in a (married)couple(no pun intended)of years and take £200 + much more ££££ before you get it!

  • Comment number 192.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 191.

    £200 ... that does not buy my vote...

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 190.

    this is an insult to all single tax paying members of society. Why do married people get these breaks? Life is hard for everyone. I co-habit with my partner of 13 years. why should married couples receive tax breaks when don't?

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 189.

    So Mr Cameron, how are going to be paying for this?

    Oh yes, I forgot: Royal Mail sell off, recent 6% Lloyd's bank shares sell off, the Bedroom Tax, welfare cuts (some now on £54 p/wk), Gov borrowing.

    And it just so happens to come into effect 1 month before people go to the polls.

    Stinks of election bribery and desperation.

    Whatever happened to austerity?

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 188.

    Good news for some couples but it doesn't add up given that Pensioners' Tax Breaks have been cancelled throwing thousands of our Senior Citizens into poverty. Time to re-instate the Pensioner Tax Breaks????.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 187.

    20 years ago, I was a Tax Inspector. We used to have a thing called the "married couples allowance" which was worth about £7 a week until the last tory Government scrapped it.

    And now the current mob are introducing this (a watered down and moneyless version) as something new??

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 186.

    Oh, and just in time for the elections. What a coincidence.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 185.

    So you get £4 a week if you get married but the shirt taken off your back when you get divorced!

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 184.

    Never have I seen such an out of touch Prime Minister as David Cameron, he never ceases to amaze me, but then I remember the Tories the last time around, they simply don't get it.

    We have the highest divorce rate and he gives a tax break to married couples, yes a real priority. Is this the best he can do?

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 183.

    This is indicative of the contempt in which Cameron and his bullingdon chums hold the general public. Ed Balls is right £3 a week won't turn us into tories - You need a £4 million trust fund like Gideon's to be that corrupt.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 182.

    They have not been elected AGAIN yet. Another vote gainer or not?

  • rate this
    -17

    Comment number 181.

    @129.thrill_vermilion "getting married is the lifestyle choice"

    No. Finding a partner and producing offspring is the default position in nature. Have you ever wondered why the human race is still here?

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 180.

    Sweet... in 20 years that will have paid off the cost of our wedding. Roll on the good times.

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 179.

    #160
    Where does Jeremy Hunt get the notion of "hardworking couples" from?
    -----------
    Rebekah Brookes and Dodgy?

    ---------------------------
    #147
    Tory party see marriage as special they deem it okay to make tax concessions to those that get married.
    ------
    Jezzah and Dodgy they have very relaxed attitudes to tax concessions - 100k's worth in Hunt's case and Dodgy wasn't even morally repugnified!

 

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    Tweets: Will @David_Cameron's voice last till end of PMQs

     
  53.  
    12:27: A whisper in Cameron's ear House of Commons Parliament

    George Osborne has a habit of whispering advice to the prime minister as questions are asked, and this week is no exception. He's leaned forward, unlike every other Cabinet frontbencher, throughout these exchanges so he can get past Northern Ireland secretary Theresa Villiers to give Cameron hints.

    David Cameron answers questions at PMQs - with help from George Osborne
     
  54.  
    Vicki Young, BBC Political Correspondent

    tweets: Felt like both Cameron and Miliband went off script at #PMQs as they yelled at each other about NHS. Cam's voice croaky from shouting

     
  55.  
    12:25: Skinner on food banks House of Commons Parliament

    Labour veteran Dennis Skinner asks David Cameron to apologise to people using food banks, on "zero hours" contracts and using payday loans. Mr Cameron says the government has acted on food banks and zero hours contracts, and uses the question to mention criticism of Labour election tactics from former Labour ministers Alan Milburn and John Hutton in this morning's papers.

     
  56.  
    @bbcnickrobinson Nick Robinson, BBC Political Editor

    tweets: Small irony. Watching from my sickbed as PM tries to shield himself on NHS by quoting my "weaponise" report. Time for an aspirin! :) #pmqs

     
  57.  
    @MSmithsonPB Mike Smithson, Political Betting

    Tweets: Today's #PMQs is the best argument against having TV debates. This is dire.

     
  58.  
    @Kevin_Maguire Kevin Maguire, Daily Mirror associate editor

    Tweets; Miliband let Cameron off the hook for breaking promises by shutting NHS units. Won't keep that #pmqs in his video highlights

     
  59.  
    @thomasbrake Tom Brake, Lib Dem MP

    tweets: #pmqs nhs centre stage. All that was missing was a reference to #savesthelier.

     
  60.  
    @andybell5news Andy Bell, Channel 5 News political editor

    tweets: Win for Cameron - Miiband failed to make new #NHS attack stick after NHS England shot it down - also still vulnerable on the w word

     
  61.  
    12:19: Stuck in the middle? House of Commons Parliament

    Liberal Democrat MP Stephen Gilbert is next up after the prime minister's tussle with Ed Miliband. He invokes Stealers Wheel hit Stuck in the Middle with You, saying there are "clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right".

     
  62.  
    Robin Brant, BBC Political Correspondent

    tweets: Did I just hear correctly, @Ed_Miliband accused PM of having a 'war on wales' ?

     
  63.  
    12:17: Leaders clash House of Commons Parliament

    More angry exchanges between the leaders. After David Cameron calls the Opposition "completely useless", Mr Milband says there are "99 days to kick out a prime minister who has broken all his promises on the NHS".

     
  64.  
    @iainmartin1 Iain Martin, political journalist

    Even by the standards of #PMQs this is dire.

     
  65.  
    @ShippersUnbound 12:16: Tim Shipman, Sunday Times political editor

    Tweets: Michael Gove doing a good impersonation of the Churchill dog, nodding judiciously as Dave speaks

     
  66.  
    @DavidJonesMP 12:15: David Jones, Conservative MP

    tweets: Remarkably, Miliband raises Welsh NHS; silly, silly.

     
  67.  
    @tombradby Tom Bradby, ITV News political editor

    Tweets: Ed is normally pretty good at PMQs, but he looks a bit flustered today. This issue over the word 'weaponise' is tricky.

     
  68.  
    12:14: Miliband v Cameron House of Commons Parliament

    David Cameron is now questioning Ed Miliband's motives about the NHS. "He told the political editor of the BBC he wants to weaponise the NHS, so I ask him again: get up there and withdraw." Miliband responds - "I'll tell him what my motive is: it's to rescue the National Health Service from this Tory government."

     
  69.  
    12:12: Picture: Ed Miliband asking question
    Ed Miliband in the Commons
     
  70.  
    12:13: House of Commons Parliament

    Now we're on to this morning's story about "major incidents" being declared by NHS trusts. Mr Cameron says the new guidance on when one can be declared was issued by the NHS in the West Midlands, "without any instruction" from ministers or the Department of Health.

     
  71.  
    12:10: Miliband v Cameron House of Commons Parliament

    Ed Miliband is asking about David Cameron's "bare knuckle fight" to preserve A&E and maternity units. The PM responds by returning to the Labour leader's comment - to BBC political editor Nick Robinson - about wanting to "weaponise" the NHS. He demands an apology, Mr Miliband says it is a "ridiculous smokescreen".

     
  72.  
    @iainjwatson Iain Watson, BBC political correspondent

    Tweets: No surprise that Ed Miliband goes on the #NHS consistently top of voters concerns according to polls

     
  73.  
    12:09: Picture: Ed Miliband House of Commons Parliament
    Ed Miliband
     
  74.  
    12:08: Cigarette packaging Robin Brant Political Correspondent, BBC News

    The Prime Minister's official spokesman has refused to say directly if David Cameron supports moves to bring it in The government has pledged to give MPs a vote on new regulations before the election. Asked if the PM was concerned about the prospect of a rebellion by some of his own MPs the spokesman said: "The right thing to do is to proceed as the government has set out for some considerable time."

     
  75.  
    12:06: Labour's Eds listen to first answer
    Ed Balls and Ed Miliband
     
  76.  
    12:06: NHS at PMQs House of Commons Parliament

    The NHS gets its first PMQs mention in question two, from Labour MP Lilian Greenwood who suggests the health service is not a priority for David Cameron. The PM says the government has invested in the NHS and attacks Labour's record in Wales.

     
  77.  
    @MartynExpress Martyn Brown, Daily Express political correspondent

    Tweets: Women on front bench - Tories 8 v Labour 8 #pmqs

     
  78.  
    12:05: Picture: Cameron takes first question
    David Cameron
     
  79.  
    12:04: Picture: Frank Field House of Commons Parliament
    Frank Field Labour MP Frank Field asks when the Chilcot inquiry report will be published
     
  80.  
    12:04: PMQs under way

    Labour MP Frank Field gets Prime Minister's Questions up and running, asking about delays to the Iraq War inquiry. David Cameron says he too is frustrated at the timing.

     
  81.  
    12:04: UKIP defector James Landale Deputy Political Editor, BBC News

    James Landale says most voters won't be too bothered by the negative stories emerging about Amjad Bashir, the former UKIP MEP who has defected to the Tories. He says: "As ever with defections, they are never as clean as political parties would like. The problem for UKIP is that most voters are less aware of the detail that goes on underneath."

     
  82.  
    @nedsimons 12:03: Ned Simons, Huffington Post UK assistant political editor

    Tweets: Can't wait for Miliband and Cameron to shout NHS statistics at each other for ten minutes. #PMQs

     
  83.  
    12:01: Miliband's only PMQs option: The NHS James Landale Deputy Political Editor, BBC News

    James Landale on the Daily Politics says he thinks the Labour leader will focus all six of his questions on the NHS. "I would be amazed if Ed Miliband doesn't go on health - that's his subject of the week, he has to go on it. "

     
  84.  
    12:00: Immigration target Daily Politics Live on BBC Two

    Earlier on Daily Politics David Willetts was pressed by Andrew Neil to accept that the Conservatives have failed on immigration. Ministers had sought to cut net migration below 100,000. Mr Willetts suggested a Tory-only government might have made more progress, saying: "We had a commitment in our manifesto which was not part of the coalition agreement and therefore not the basis on which the government was to act."

     
  85.  
    12:00: NHS England BBC News Channel

    Dr Barbara Hakin, national director of commissioning operations for NHS England, says: "Local hospitals continue to have responsibility for deciding whether to declare major incidents, but before doing so best practice dictates that they take account of the wider impacts on other parts of the NHS so that patient safety in the round is protected. That's why NHS England's local area team in the West Midlands decided to issue these guidelines. This was not a decision of the Department of Health."

     
  86.  
    12:00: Major NHS incidents BBC Radio 5 live

    John Pienaar tells 5Live that Guidance to NHS Trusts on declaring a major incident will surely feature during PMQs

     
  87.  
    11:57: EU-US trade deal

    Trade minister Lord Livingston is facing questioning about the EU-US trade deal which many fear could reduce Britain's control over the NHS. Around 150,000 people responded to a recent EU consultation on the issue voicing their concerns, most of them negative. But Lord Livingston, a strong supporter of the deal, is not concerned. "Ninety-seven per cent of the responses were standard," he says. "I'm not entirely sure that represents the totality of everyone's views. However, it's important we recognise everyone's concerns."

     
  88.  
    11:55: 'No-go areas' Daily Politics Live on BBC Two

    Quentin Letts, the Daily Mail sketchwriter, is on BBC Two's Daily Politics talking about the issues the political parties would rather steer clear of. Neither the Conservatives nor Labour want to discuss Trident, he claims, while the Liberal Democrats are keen to avoid talking about anything connected with tuition fees. "There are issues that are of great interest to the voters, and yet the politicians are shying away from it," Letts says. "It's totally unsustainable, particularly with such a long election campaign."

     
  89.  
    11:52: 'Responsibility of the government' House of Commons Parliament

    Shadow Northern Ireland secretary Ivan Lewis cautions MPs on the government side about "believing everything that you read in the Sun" concerning alleged contacts between Labour and Sinn Fein.

    Conservative Andrew Robathan had suggested that Labour should speak to Sinn Fein about security in Northern Ireland.

    Mr Lewis says that Conservatives are asking that "the Labour party take responsibility for things that are clearly the responsibility of the government".

     
  90.  
    11:46: Daily Politics line-up

    Joining Andrew Neil and Jo Coburn on Daily Politics are ex-Conservative minister David Willetts and Labour's shadow minister Caroline Flint. They are discussing the suggestion that up to 100 Conservative MPs might oppose the plan to bring in standardised (plain) cigarette packaging.

    Daily Politics
     
  91.  
    11:42: Labour and Sinn Fein House of Commons Parliament

    Conservative MP Andrew Robathan asks about a story, reported in the Sun, that "the Labour party have been talking to Sinn Fein about a possible link-up after the election".

    A cry of "absolute rubbish!" is heard from the Labour benches.

     
  92.  
    11:38: Northern Ireland questions House of Commons Parliament

    Northern Ireland questions have begun in the Commons. The first question is from Labour MP Tom Greatrex, about the the security situation in Northern Ireland. NI Secretary Theresa Villiers tells him the threat level remains "severe" but there have been "a number of significant arrests, charges and convictions".

     
  93.  
    @EmmaReynoldsMP 11:32: Emma Reynolds, shadow housing minister

    tweets: Since 2010 we have been building 356 fewer homes than we need - Gov't is presiding over the lowest level of house building since 1920s.

     
  94.  
    11:24: 'Trojan horse' plot

    Chief Inspector of Schools Sir Michael Wilshaw has called on the Department for Education to do more to help schools involved in the alleged "Trojan horse" plot in Birmingham to recruit more good staff. "There are big problems about leadership and staffing, in recruiting people," Sir Michael says.

    Sir Michael Wilshaw
     
  95.  
    11:23: Commons questions House of Commons Parliament

    MPs will meet in the House of Commons in a few minutes' time.

    Prime Minister's Questions is at noon and Labour's urgent question on the NHS will follow.

    First, Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers will take questions from MPs. That's from 11:30 GMT.

     
  96.  
    11:14: Ambulance times 'worst on record'

    Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt's tweets refer to the story emerging from Wales today that its ambulance response times are the worst ever. Just 42.6% of call-outs met the eight-minute target time in December, well below the 65% target. Tracy Myhill, interim chief executive at the Welsh Ambulance Service, has conceded the figures are "unacceptable" - but also points out the 40,000 calls received that month are a record high.

    Ambulances at a hospital The Welsh Ambulance Service has said it was working to address underlying issues
     
  97.  
    11:11: Urgent question

    We'll be hearing plenty more about hospitals' "major incidents" in the House of Commons today. Labour's Andy Burnham has just been granted an urgent question on today's developments, which will follow PMQs. Will Ed Miliband choose the same subject for his clash with David Cameron?

     
  98.  
    11:10: Strike news

    The PCS union says workers at the National Gallery in London are to stage a five-day strike in a row over the privatisation of services.

    National Gallery staff protest
     
  99.  
    11:04: Hunt hits back

    More from Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, who has responded to Labour criticism over revised guidance on when some hospitals can call a "major incident". In a series of tweets, he says a local decision taken in the West Midlands has been "cynically exploited" by Labour's Andy Burnham and criticises the NHS in Wales, for which Labour is responsible.

    Jeremy Hunt tweets
     
  100.  
    Sebastian Payne, The Spectator

    tweets: I'm going to be covering #GE2015 for @spectator in a Mini. Track my progress at http://specc.ie/1CcLE4b #MiniElection

    Sebastian Payne
     

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