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Focus on marriage

Nick Robinson | 11:05 UK time, Tuesday, 10 July 2007

So, we're off.

Welcome to the first skirmish of the long long election campaign which began when Gordon Brown became prime minister. No, don't stop reading. This argument has the benefit of being about something that really matters. That something is the "Broken Society" - that's the new catchphrase for the proposition that having mended the British economy politicians have watched as our society has shattered.

The Tory policy review out today blames five evils - family breakdown, addiction (to drugs, alcohol and gambling), poor education, welfare dependency and failed education. The language is a self conscious re-working of Beveridge - the founder of the welfare state. The message is that that the welfare state has all too often made things worse rather than better - whether through a benefit system that makes it too easy to stay out of work or a drugs policy that gives addicts their next fix.

Today's focus will, though, be on marriage. To reduce this to a debate about whether getting hitched is good or bad is too trite. In truth mainstream politicians do not disagree about this. Most subscribe to the view that the evidence shows that marriage is - in most cases - more stable than cohabitation and that two parents are - in most cases - better than one.

Of course, there are plenty of exceptions ranging from the good - lone parents who give their all to their kids - to the bad - abusive fathers who beat their children. However, these examples do not challenge the basic premise.

Ed MilibandGordon Brown has ordered ministers not to engage in an argument about whether marriage is better or worse. That's why the exceptionally bright minister Ed Miliband got into a bit of a tangle on the Today programme this morning when asked just that. The argument is really about the best priorities for spending taxpayers' money and whether governments can or even should signal the way people should lead their lives.

The Tories propose a transferable tax break for married couples as a "signal" of society's approval for marriage. Labour point out that a tax break for all married couples would either cost a lot or give couples very little. It would also only benefit those whose income is high enough to pay tax and where one parent earns very little. Better, they say, to help children regardless of what their parents do and focus help on the poorest.

The Tories will find it easier to make the case for reforming the benefit system. Labour's former welfare minister Frank Field has recently argued that it sends perverse signals about how people should lead their lives. The premiums for single parents in fact represent a "couples' penalty" by making people better off if they separate. This is a problem which John Hutton - the minister in charge until a couple of weeks ago - has himself acknowledged.

Today's report tries to avoid the trap of robbing lone parent Peter to pay for married Paul. The result though is that it comes with a bill attached of over ÂŁ6 billion which it claims can be paid for by a tougher and more efficient welfare system. Sounds too good to be true. Someone somewhere will have to lose if others are to gain. These are the choices politicians - and ultimately voters - have to make and it's an illusion to think that any of them come value free.

Comments

  • 1.
  • At 12:04 PM on 10 Jul 2007,
  • Graham wrote:

Sorry Gordon, but David's just offered me a real tax incentive to vote for him rather than your headline attempt at the last budget which in reality didn't save me anything... guess who'll be getting my vote.

  • 2.
  • At 12:08 PM on 10 Jul 2007,
  • Simon wrote:

So will people in a civil partnership get the tax break as well or are the Tories reverting to traditional prejudices ?

  • 3.
  • At 12:09 PM on 10 Jul 2007,
  • gwenhwyfaer wrote:

Of course, the problem of where to find the money would be eased no end if raising tax were not regarded on all sides of the House as somewhere between anathemaic and suicidal.

What I'd like to see published, at some point, is a breakdown of the cost of means testing. If it could be demonstrated (as I suspect it could) that means-testing benefits actually costs more than simply making universal provision and relying on the well-off not claiming, a lot of rational arguments against the latter would go away. After all, it's obviously the case that we cannot have both a more effective means-testing regime (to eliminate fraud) and a cheaper benefit system (to eliminate overhead) - the more effective means-testing becomes, the more it will cost; and like anything else, there comes a point of diminishing returns, especially when trying to ensure a negative.

And because it's our money being used to pay our benefits, we have the right both to have that choice, and to have the proper information with which to do so. Otherwise we might as well not bother voting at all.

  • 4.
  • At 12:12 PM on 10 Jul 2007,
  • Sean wrote:

One of your best pieces Nick. I must say it is hugely refreshing to be a reading a debate on the differing policy ideas/frameworks the two parties have for the future of Britain. I feel engaged again. Fancy that!

  • 5.
  • At 12:15 PM on 10 Jul 2007,
  • Philip Hatcher wrote:

This Alice in Wonderland report will be used as a reason to cut benefits in other areas of welfare.It fails to recognise how society has changed over the last twenty years or so It suggests a dreamlike return to the past,and that is; the politicians know best.

  • 6.
  • At 12:16 PM on 10 Jul 2007,
  • Haider wrote:

What about civil partenrships?

Silly question I know!

[I posted this a minute ago and it said I used a rude word?!!! which bit? civil? or Partnership?]

  • 7.
  • At 12:19 PM on 10 Jul 2007,
  • Colin Soames wrote:

All attempts at socialist social-engineering since 1945 have had appalling outcomes for society.

Of course, they also all have a hidden agenda in making the population more and mode beholden and grateful to the 'dear leader' for whatever handouts are available.

Do politicians seriously think that people choose to get married, live together or get divorced based on their tax situation? What a joke!

  • 9.
  • At 12:21 PM on 10 Jul 2007,
  • Rupert Hancock wrote:

Frank Field's comment in Sunday Times 8th July illustrates the madness of the present system, and is a clear signal that change is needed.
Commentators and Politicians need to focus on the need for change to start the repair of "our broken society", and not indulge in party political warfare: the stakes are too high. 500,000 emigrants of relatively wealthy taxpayers speak volumes about what 'middle England' now thinks of the state of the country.

Rupert Hancock 10th July 2007

  • 10.
  • At 12:21 PM on 10 Jul 2007,
  • Nick Eden wrote:

As a single person I'm sick to the back teeth of this kind of thing. Tax breaks for kids is one thing, but now they want me to pay more tax to subsidise people just for having a working relationship.

Besides which, if a tax break is the thing that convinces people that they should get married, isn't that proof that their relationship's not strong enough to survive?

  • 11.
  • At 12:21 PM on 10 Jul 2007,
  • Jono wrote:

I heard a Lib Dem spokesman, on Sunday I think, something I have thought for a while but which is very rarely stated. The general assumption seems to be that marriage leads to a stable relationship. Isn't it at least equally likely, if not moreso, that people get married because the relationship they are in is stable already?

  • 12.
  • At 12:24 PM on 10 Jul 2007,
  • Anonymous wrote:

Do politicians seriously think that people choose to get married, live together or get divorced based on their tax situation? What a joke!

  • 13.
  • At 12:35 PM on 10 Jul 2007,
  • Andy Stevenson wrote:

Why do the party that constantly tell us government is too big under Labour want it just small enough to fit in peoples' bedrooms.

  • 14.
  • At 12:35 PM on 10 Jul 2007,
  • Dave wrote:

I'm all for this idea if the cost comes from the current benefits system, ie. the career layabouts/mothers are given an 'incentive' to go back to work, i.e. less money to spend on beer, fags and designer clothing.

If it comes out of a tax increase then we're back in the realms of Mr Browns sneaky little budget sleight of hand - give with one hand and take off everyone with the other.

  • 15.
  • At 12:37 PM on 10 Jul 2007,
  • Ewan Boyd wrote:

The Tory ideas, (not yet policies remeber), are based on the presumption that society is 'broken'. All I can say is that it's an awful lot less broken than it was when they were last in power, and I've no inclination to go back to the days when upper class Tories told the rest of us how to live our lives.

  • 16.
  • At 12:40 PM on 10 Jul 2007,
  • Sean wrote:

I have been 'co-habiting' for 25 years and have 2 happy, healthy, well-behaved children. So it's all my fault

  • 17.
  • At 12:42 PM on 10 Jul 2007,
  • Jenna wrote:

Wonderful - a tax on single people, single parents, cohabiting couples, married couples without children, and likely those in civil partnerships, too, given how carefully the Tories have avoided mentioning them. That's exactly what society needs, I'm sure. Married couples already benefit from a dual income in many (most?) cases, and couples with children already benefit from the variety of schemes available for children. What on earth will this achieve? Ł20 a week isn't enough to convince someone to have children, so it's not going to bring the birthrate up and provide more taxpayers. It will simply be a pat on the back for those who already have them.

  • 18.
  • At 12:43 PM on 10 Jul 2007,
  • David Simmons wrote:

What goes around, comes around, eh..?
What next - tax rebates on mortgages..?
Free prescriptions..?

  • 19.
  • At 12:43 PM on 10 Jul 2007,
  • Adam wrote:

If politicians think that just because the research shows married couples are more stable than cohabiting couples we should therefore encourage marriage, they are dimmer than I thought they were. Do they really not understand the difference between correlation and causation? It is far more likely that stable couples choose to get married than that marriage makes a relationship stable. So encouraging people to get married wouldn't amount to a hill of beans (unless you are are divorce lawyer).

Consider this: suppose research were to show that children born to fathers who wear silk ties have better educational achievements. Does that mean we should issue all fathers with silk ties? No. I just means that rich men are more likely to wear silk ties and are more likely to have more successful offspring.

  • 20.
  • At 12:44 PM on 10 Jul 2007,
  • paul wrote:

doesnt it all come down to basic economics. when you give somebody some cash for doing something then it becomes a reward system. give people benefits for having a legal union then potentially more people will do it for longer. Additionally its not just kids that benefit from a stable union of adults, just thing of the benefits when we all turn into old fogies and need looking after. people who are in a legal union will be more able to look after each other and since thier kids have grown up better they'll be around too. that'll save a bit on wellfare in a few years

  • 21.
  • At 12:45 PM on 10 Jul 2007,
  • Duncan Ross wrote:

Given that the avaerage cost of a wedding is over Ł14 000, then it seems unlikely that a Ł1 000 per year tax cut is going to be much of an incentive.

This is more of an electoral bribe to people who are already married (or were going to get married anyway).

  • 22.
  • At 12:45 PM on 10 Jul 2007,
  • Simon George wrote:

At 12:24 PM on 10 Jul 2007, Anonymous wrote:
Do politicians seriously think that people choose to get married, live together or get divorced based on their tax situation? What a joke!

Actually the evidence is that they do.

WHY is this surprising to you? In EVERY other field of human life, tax and benefit policy has an impact on behaviour, why should relationships be different?

People who oppose IDS's thinking seem to do so on the "well I would not be influenced" school of logic.

Well I do not believe you. EVERYONE is influenced by their money position when it comes to relationships.

What I do beleive is the clear uncontestable fact that government tax benefit policy drives behaviour in every other area it is applied to. Governments know this and ACTIVELY design policy on this basis.

And guess what, if you make it advantageous to be single for benefit purposes, then there is an increase in single living. Even the Government acknowledges that much.


  • 23.
  • At 12:47 PM on 10 Jul 2007,
  • Shaun wrote:

I like the idea it is about time couples were recognised. The current system benefits those living apart or single parents.

If you are trying to get ahead in this life it seems the government is always putting an obstacle in the way. Benefits should be paid to those willing to make a change and striving to go forward, not just paying them to sit at home and do nothing.

I sympathise with those individuals who choose to live alone, why should they be penalised, the system needs to be fair to accommodate all tax payers not those taking the tax as a benefit.

  • 24.
  • At 12:48 PM on 10 Jul 2007,
  • kerrie - Undecided Voter wrote:

Well that's one less party for me to consider at the next election.Same old Tories,playing to peoples misconceptions,different way of saying it.

For someone who has supposed to have improved the way the party is viewed by the general public,this is amazingly poor.

Is this the New Longest Suicide Note in history?

200 ways to put of swing voters like me,more like.

  • 25.
  • At 12:53 PM on 10 Jul 2007,
  • Steve wrote:

As one half of a 'young couple' I'm quite insulted by the implication that we need a financial 'incentive' to stay together. If a relationship is only being held together by an extra tenner a week, it's already on shakey ground and SHOULD end.

Meanwhile, the legions of young couples who, like me, can't afford a house, and end up leaving their jobs to move in with parents in a cheaper part of the country (in the hope of getting a house cheaper), only to find it's imposible to get a job, end up being labelled as 'benefit layabouts' and find their JSA stopped, forcing them to spend all their hard-earned savings from the past three years on... surviving.

Nice.

Thanks, but no thanks, Dave Cameron. I'd rather be part of a society that PROTECTS the vulnerable and the struggling, rather than stupid gimmicks like a tenner a week for 'being married'. What about some scheme for helping first time buyers instead?

  • 26.
  • At 12:55 PM on 10 Jul 2007,
  • Kendrick Curtis wrote:

mod 11 up.

He's spot on - Nick, you, as many politicians, have your causality the wrong way around. It is the people in stable, loving relationships that are more likely to get married and stay married in the first place.

good relationship -> marriage

not

marriage -> good relationship

Disappointed, Nick, because you're usually very good.

  • 27.
  • At 12:57 PM on 10 Jul 2007,
  • GiacomoL wrote:

Don't fall for it: the "Compassionate conservatism" spiel was what propelled G.W.Bush in office, and you know how it turned out to be... horrible on social issues as much as on green issues, and disastrous on foreign policy.

This is just another little bait from the poll-tax party, which hasn't changed at all from the bad old days...

  • 28.
  • At 12:57 PM on 10 Jul 2007,
  • Jenna wrote:

Additionally, what happens when a parent dies? Do these payments suddenly cease? The widow(er) is, after all, no longer married and is now a single parent.

  • 29.
  • At 01:01 PM on 10 Jul 2007,
  • brian wrote:

In business consulting, one of the "rules" is that if some business process is broken beyond repair then try something else - anything else. If the current system does not work at all, then anything you try is likely to be an improvement.

The tories are on the right track here. Trying to shore up the current system will just entrench its problems. The nay-sayers will have you believe that "paying" people to be married won't work yet "paying" them to be unmarried does work. Huh? You can't have it both ways.

If, as appears to be accepted, marriage increases stability in society then we would be fools not to encourage marriage.

On the plus side, it will be interesting to see how Gordon reacts now that he has inherited as Prime Minister the mess that he created as Chancellor.

  • 30.
  • At 01:02 PM on 10 Jul 2007,
  • Pete L wrote:

No doubt Dave & the Tories imagine that at last they have a policy that will appeal to the electorate, whilst placating the traditional Tory right-wing. I can't speak for the Tory right-wing, but it seems to me that Dave still fails to understand that what we need is good 'parents' dedicated to caring for their children. Married or cohabiting, gay or straight is in my view irrelevant. A widowed parent living with their own parent(s) and sharing the responsibility for child rearing should not be penalised because of some 'one size fits all' policy linked to a married couple / 'nuclear family' template. Also there are grandparents bringing up children in place of deceased or absent parents, should we ignore their financial needs?
I'm married myself and fully support the institution, but if Dave wants to do someting positive then helping parents afford homes for themselves and their children might be a better policy.

  • 31.
  • At 01:03 PM on 10 Jul 2007,
  • Mark wrote:

Simon asked "What about Civil Partnerships"?
Cameron and indeed Conservative Central Office, confirmed to me when I asked, that any proposals on Marriage apply equally to Civil Partnerships.

  • 32.
  • At 01:04 PM on 10 Jul 2007,
  • Michael Orton wrote:

If I understand it correctly, all that is being proposed is that people in a legally recognised relationship will be able to transfer their tax allowances just as they can transfer other assets. This seems to me to be so obviously right and proper that it ought to be the case already, and I therefore wonder if I have misunderstood.

Of course civil partnerships should get the same benefits in law. While I doubt there will be many of those with children to look after, this may increase scope for other dependants to be cared for within the family - obviously a good thing.

When there are two earners in a family this change will make little difference. Where there is significant unearned income, again this will make little difference as couples with any brains will already have moved most of it into the name of the lower earning half.

All this is going to do is make life very slightly easier for couples with one income between two. It isn't even very much money. So what is all the fuss about?

  • 33.
  • At 01:07 PM on 10 Jul 2007,
  • Oliver Housley wrote:

Why are the Conservatives still advocating draconian drug policies? Reclassifying cannabis to a class B will solve nothing, and only make the problem worse. Just study economics to find out why.

Locking up 'stoners' will not 'mend' our 'broken society'.

If someone wants to take drugs, that's their personal decision, and the state has no business intervening. Illegal activity relating to drugs is a consequence of criminalisation. When will people wake up!? In places where Cannabis is legal, consumption has fallen. As usual, people disregard the facts and opt for draconian laws.

Every piece of research shows clearly that tobacco kills more people than any other drug in the world. Why isn't this a class A drug? The answer is quite simple: It generates profit. Yes, that's right. Human suffering is a low-priority in comparison to this. The same goes for alcohol. Consistent research has shown that alcohol has a tendency to make people aggressive. So, naturally, the Tories advocate increasing taxation on alcohol, forcing people into the home to binge drink! Does anyone in the Conservative party even know basic economics?

The fact this party thinks that a Ł20 tax break will get them votes is highly amusing. Surely they can't be serious? It doesn't get much more opportunistic.

All these politicians know that the only way to achieve a better society is to use the taxation system effectively (even if this means some corporations lose a few million - like they already don't have enough).

The fact that people even consider voting for these jokers is beyond me.

  • 34.
  • At 01:07 PM on 10 Jul 2007,
  • Richard Marriott wrote:

I approve of tax breaks for married couples who have dependent children. That means no blanket married tax allowance, but one for couples with children under the age of 16 or in full time education.

  • 35.
  • At 01:08 PM on 10 Jul 2007,
  • Henry wrote:

For those doubting Thomasses, it looks like Civil Partnerships are included!

Note 94 on page 110 of Vol 1 of the report, which is where the tax proposals are expounded: 'In this document references to marriage are to be taken as including civil partnerships'.

  • 36.
  • At 01:10 PM on 10 Jul 2007,
  • kav wrote:

Sounds to me that, surprise surprise, people are deliberately misinterpreting this to satisfy their own agenda. The tax break is not proposed as an incentive to get people to marry; frankly, the very idea of this is ridiculous and insulting. My interpretation of it is that it would serve to benefit couples who have chosen to raise their children in the "traditional" way, ie have one parent at home while the other works.

The end result being that the tax credits of the parent at home are not simply left unused, but are actually of some benefit to the family.

  • 37.
  • At 01:11 PM on 10 Jul 2007,
  • AMJ wrote:

Like most people all I know is what has been in the Media. If all conclusions are so off the mark as - 7p on a pint will stop binge drinking - then its not worth the paper its written on.
Using the tax and benefits system to contol from the top down was an extreme left policy, so where does Mr Cameron stand now?
If this report is acted upon Cameron will have abandoned the Centre/Centre Right ground and become more Left than even Mr Brown.
If this report is not acted upon, then its all about spin and middle England headline grabbing and not about real policies.
We shall see, but I point out there are more children being brought up by unmarried couples and single parents than married ones.

  • 38.
  • At 01:13 PM on 10 Jul 2007,
  • Simon wrote:

"Someone somewhere will have to lose if others are to gain".

Some people still say this about globalisation and trade, but they are, on the whole, wrong, and demonstrably so.

In the context of Nick's article, the non-zero sum game is the welfare system. It is conceivable, surely, that a better aligned system gets more people into work *and that these people create economic value greater than their cost*.

  • 39.
  • At 01:13 PM on 10 Jul 2007,
  • Carlos Cortiglia wrote:

We complain about the cost of housing at a time when there is no enough housing available. We complain about the cost of nursing homes and about the fact that there are not enough nursing homes available. Well, let's stop complaining. Support the family. A good family is space efficient. A good family will look after the elders and will take care of small children. We will have less crime and children will have a better performance in schools and get better jobs. People will drink less alcohol and will have a healthier life. The so called modern way of thinking that is an attempt to get rid of families is what causes most social ills.

  • 40.
  • At 01:13 PM on 10 Jul 2007,
  • DrK wrote:

Colin Soames (#7) - apropos of not very much, I fear.

Traditional conservatives, every bit as much as your socialist bogey-men, have sought in the formulation of policy to mitigate the deleterious effects of the expansion of the market, which in the process of creating new bonds between people undoes old bonds - a fact recognised by Marx and Schumpeter, to be sure, but by Adam Smith also, not to mention the Conservative party until the mid-1980s. Current Tory proposals (or ideas, or ideas about ideas, or whatever label they attaching to their collective head-scratching these days) recall 'One Nation Toryism', and to reduce all state action to 'socialist social engineering' is absurd.

You mark yourself out as a free-market fundamentalist and libertarian above - I trust, however, that for the sake of consistency you are not also politically socially conservative, and that the decline in family living is of no real concern to you?

Thankfully, the worst excesses of free-market utopian thinking seem to have passed, for now. The message just hasn't got through to you. Yet.

  • 41.
  • At 01:15 PM on 10 Jul 2007,
  • thedacs wrote:

I'm a swing voter and it's definitely a proposal that appeals to me (And not just because i'm married and stand to gain), especially as it's part and parcel of wider changes to the benefits system that are desperately needed if we're to break the cycle of dependancy existant in Britain today.

Also instructive to note that, although in decline, married people still make up the majority of the adult population

  • 42.
  • At 01:15 PM on 10 Jul 2007,
  • Darren Stephens wrote:

I find it amazing that Ian Dunkin-Donuts and the rest of the Tory Policy Review are still in the territory of Baruch's Observation (when all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail): the solution to all social ills appears to be, "offer them some more money".

How about looking a little deeper to examine some of the causes of family break-up and societal strife: lack of stable male role models for many young men involved in criminality, from the earliest times in their lives, even if it's just a primary school teacher. Unlikely now that that road seems to carry suspicion and stigma for any man who wishes to do it; communities (what is left of them, now a point for debate in itself) disintegrating because of economic collapse in some places. I'm thinking here about huge swathes of the industrial north, from where I come; a culture that encourages the acquisition of goods as the sole indicator of success or happiness and where the expense of even buying a house is so vastly over-inflated (especially in the overpopulated south-east) that one or other or both parents feel duty-bound to work ever longer hours at the expense of family life simply to maintain a roof over their heads. Those same parents feel such intense guilt they try to compensate their offspring in material ways, creating a spoiled set of little princes and princesses who want it, and want it NOW. MY wife and I are desperately trying to avoid these pitfalls in bring up our child and, in all honesty it's hard not to give in and just follow like sheep, but we won't, because we want our daughter to grow up to be a decent human being, not a selfish, oafish monster who believes the world owes her something.

When everyone is chanting the same mantra of 'the market will solve everything' we're not going to solve anything. None of the main parties seem to want to crawl out of their market-driven cocoons to look at the harsh realities of the world outside.

Even the value of such simple things eating a meal together in the evening seems have vanished. worse yet, children are actively encouraged by the culture to have a 'screw you, I'm alright Jack' attitude, supported by a media that tells them they can have it all and not work of it. not all kids end up like the description above but it is worringly becoming more common.

In the same way, yesterday's alcohol wheeze was just as facile and just as misguided. Raising the price of a pint of beer is not going to have a significant effect on drinking culture, mainly because the principal problem is not beer but the obscene amounts of money thrown at encouraging people to neck as much alcohol in as little time as possible, usually by way of ridiculous spirit promotions, designed to appeal to young town centre drinkers out to get a bladdered as possible as quickly as possible. But of course, no one seems to want to summon up the courage to tell the (large multi-national, political party donating) drinks and leisure companies that they are behaving in a crassly irresponsible way solely in pursuit of profit.

I realise that I sound like an superannuated Daily Mail reader howling at the moon but I'm not, Guardian-reading sort-of lefty (well, a left-leaning libertarian really) in my mid-30's and can remember things being radically different even as late as the early 80's before Thatcherism took its grisly hold on society.

Something is going very wrong with British society, caused by many coincidental and overlapping things and while the solutions may not be obvious or simple, I'm fairly sure that half-baked fatuous twaddle like the Tory Policy Review isn't anywhere close.

  • 43.
  • At 01:19 PM on 10 Jul 2007,
  • Kevin Hall wrote:

Sounds like business as usual for the Tories. First, if your vote is swayed by a puny 20 quid a week you will inevitably end up with the rotten government you deserve.

Second and most importantly I don't think this has anything to do with Beveridge. This is more akin to the most basic of Tory principles of taking money from the poorest and giving it to the rich. Put simply most married couples have more money than single people, especially single parents so what IDS is proposing is to take even more money from the poorest to top up the better off. I am not sure at all how this is meant to fix the "broken society" (another meaningless Tory sound bite) other than make the poor even poorer than they were.

As a married person who'd gain from this (that 20 quid might be handy for buying bacon butties but that's about it) I have to say though any policy that is clearly discriminatory in terms of rewarding particular choices of lifestyle has no democratic legitimacy.

  • 44.
  • At 01:22 PM on 10 Jul 2007,
  • Giles Richardson wrote:

Adam - of course those engaged in the thinking that led to this report - who were considerable in number, intellect and experience and were not all Conservative by any means - understand the difference between causation and correlation. If you read the Report, rather than just the odd snippit, you might perceive both how the evidential underpinnings of it are more subtle and rigorous than you allow and how the policy ideas derived from it make sense. Relationships are at least as complex as the people who make them up and the influences on them are various. What all the evidence shows, however, is that fiscal or other state support for any relationship structure has a very material effect on the longevity of that structure. People do not stay together out of romance alone; or remain single just becasue they like their own company. As Nick observes, all the parties have looked into this and agree the basic premises. Even assuming you are right that only good relationships lead to marriage, what is clear is that financial incentives reduce the incidence of divorce very significantly. And it is equally clear - as all the parties now acknowledge - that children of parents who remain married have better life prospects than those of parents who do not. The debate, therefore, no longer over such premises, but the policies to which they should lead - esp. between universal support to all those providing the best environment to children (Conservatives) - or means tested direction of benefits etc to a segment only thereof (Labour).

  • 45.
  • At 01:23 PM on 10 Jul 2007,
  • Richard Artridge wrote:

Yes, Simon, good question regarding civil partnerships above. As a civil partnership couple with kids we'd like to know what "married" means too. Or are the Tories still the "nasty party"?

  • 46.
  • At 01:23 PM on 10 Jul 2007,
  • Stuart wrote:

Despite what Nick Robinson says, there is no evidence that married couples are stabler than cohabiting couples. Evidence shows that people who are married stay together longer, but all that proves is that couples who get married are already more committed to the relationship, not that marriage helps them stay together. Many couples cohabit before getting married, and then only marry if the cohabitation is a success; some who marry for religious reasons are reluctant to divorce for similar religious reasons.

  • 47.
  • At 01:30 PM on 10 Jul 2007,
  • sandymac wrote:

This is a joke - Ł20, it's a bribe and a pittance at that. Pittance or not this is not the way to tackle socities ill's, Love and money eh, ridiculous. This 'broken society' as it's being labelled, began with Mrs T and what we see now is a consequence. Ł20 won't stop couples divorcing will it? DC and his party are morons!

  • 48.
  • At 01:30 PM on 10 Jul 2007,
  • Dani wrote:

I am always a little disconcerted at the idea of marriage being 'incentivised'. There are already powerful psycho-social incentives towards marriage in play, it doesn't need a tax break to bolster it up. On the contrary, it has taken many generations to undue some of the more unpleasant aspects of that psycho-social pressure to engage in, and remain in, wedlock.

Children may well have a statistical advantage if raised within a stable relationship. At present, the marriages that tend to survive are those that are relatively happy and healthy. Those that are not happy or healthy often end in divorce. When we decide children are statistically better off raised in marriage, we are doing so based on the results of the marriages that survive. This is a self selecting sample.

Children raised in a marriage where neither party can/dares to divorce regardless how unhealthy the relationship surely would give a different view. Do we really want to return to a culture that debases those who do not remain in marriage and pities those who never tried it?

  • 49.
  • At 01:30 PM on 10 Jul 2007,
  • Will Thorman wrote:

Using the tax system to “signal” a preferred behaviour is standard practice; fuel tax; road tax; cigarette tax etc. So why not use it to promote what is proven to be the best, most stable platform to bring up the next generation. Make child care tax deductible too so when a parent feels ready to go back to work, they are not penalised for contributing to the economy.

  • 50.
  • At 01:30 PM on 10 Jul 2007,
  • Paul wrote:

"... abusive fathers who beat their children ..." What a disgraceful generalization. Check the figures, Mr. Robinson, and you will clearly be surprised how many child abusers are women.

  • 51.
  • At 01:32 PM on 10 Jul 2007,
  • James Doig wrote:

Why the repeated references to the intellectual capabilities of Ministers and MPs? The "the exceptionally bright minister Ed Miliband" certainly hasn't wowed the country with policy debate during his appearances on Question Time and Today since his promotion.

Is this a plan from "genius" Gordon Brown to convince us that we should be grateful to be ruled by this new political class who have achieved little outside politics let alone in government? Or are we mere mortals in the working (i.e., non-political) classes not bright enough to understand?

  • 52.
  • At 01:33 PM on 10 Jul 2007,
  • paulb8 wrote:

I keep seeing people saying that lone parents get a benefits premium over couples. As far as I can recall, the lone parent premium was abolished in 1997-8 and caused considerable ructions and Harriet Harman resigned or was pushed out. Some lone parents who have been claiming since 1997 may have rights to the old premium, but not any claims started since then.

In most benefits the lone parent 'personal allowance' is the same as that for single people and lower than that for couples. The exception is Working tax Credits where the amounts are the same for both couples and lone parents. The argument that this provides some sort of incentive to break up depends on the assumption that one of the couple is not in paid work, a very minority pattern, and that the government should incentivise one member of a couple not to work.

  • 53.
  • At 01:33 PM on 10 Jul 2007,
  • CS Zeng wrote:

What about the married couples that are always fighting? Not exactly a stable relationship in my mind. Here the Conversatives are nannying people into a certain belief and as much as I like IDS, these policies are rather lacking.

Yes, we should do something about people boozing, smoking and taking drugs. Get tough on those issues. Yes, we should do something about the real welfare spongers. Our hard earn cash goes into their pockets and then pays for the above. If anything happens to them, the NHS takes care of them. Who pays? Yes, the Conservatives should get tough on these problems. But leave the happy and functional families, married, single, co-hab etc alone.

  • 54.
  • At 01:34 PM on 10 Jul 2007,
  • Jonathan Recaldin wrote:

Is it me or are some of the nay - sayers on here to just have a pop at Tory policy? Don't get me wrong, I'm willing to give all the parties a fair shot, but surely just blaming the Tories again for soceities ill's is besides the point? Re: Post 27. I think to be honest, the Tories have learnt from their mistakes and are trying to placate themselves.

As for the proposal, well, it's an incentive, isn't it? I see no problem with that if it can work. As for co-habiting, what is wrong with getting married? Just because you consider it doesn't mean your relationship is going to fail. If you're so scared of it, then I'm thinking that that means you have insecurities about your relationship. Then again, I can understand your situation, because it isn't broken, so it doesn't need fixing. But I don't see any harm in taking the relationship one stage further?

Fair play Nick, an interesting piece. One which has certainly got me interested in the upcoming months of the political battle-ground (or should that be play-ground?)!

  • 55.
  • At 01:38 PM on 10 Jul 2007,
  • Ben wrote:

My wife and I have discussed whether or not we should separate for tax purposes.

As I currently have to work away to support my family it would not be difficult to arrange. All I have to do is change my work address to my full time address and she would get ÂŁ300 extra a week to support our son.

Conversely if we had that money I might be able to get a lower paid job closer to home and see more of them.

We will not be doing this because it is wrong. However, it is easy to see why others in a similar situation might decide to do so.

Do we want to encourage families to stay together or not?


  • 56.
  • At 01:38 PM on 10 Jul 2007,
  • David K wrote:

It's not a bribe for married couples to stay together: one of the main factors in marriage breakdown is debt and financial problems, so the Tories are right to use the tax system to ease this. It may be that it's mostly folk in loving stable relationships who get married, but nearly 50% of them go on to divorce, and if the govt can use the tax system to relieve some of the pressures on marriages it should do so.

Gambling and alcohol abuse is another factor, so tightening the law/tax regime on both of these is a step in the right direction. Well done to IDS.

  • 57.
  • At 01:40 PM on 10 Jul 2007,
  • El wrote:

I really don't think that it is fair that I would be taxed more because my love life sucks. If there will be tax breaks for married couples, then please will the government raise an adjenda for finding me a decent husband.

  • 58.
  • At 01:41 PM on 10 Jul 2007,
  • John E wrote:

I would venture to suggest that one of the real problems that society faces is the desperate poverty trap in which single parents can find themselves. Typically, someone who is part of a couple (married or not) has a child / children, and then becomes single, often for no fault of their own. The cost of (especially) housing, childcare and day to day survival are barely addressed by the benefit system, getting a well-paid job is the only way out - OK for the intelligent and well qualified, much more of a struggle for someone who can only command minimum wage rates. If there's spare money to hand out, give it to people who really need it - eliminating poverty would make the greatest improvement to society!

  • 59.
  • At 01:42 PM on 10 Jul 2007,
  • Albert wrote:

Focus on marriage? The Tories must be joking! Marriage breakups escalated in the 80s and 90s when we had the boom and bust economy of the Tories. Families broke up and after that terrible time couples became more aware of the fact that when one marries one might end up with a rope around his/her neck if things don't work out, ESPECIALLY WHEN THERE ARE CHILDREN INVOLVED. So IDS suggestion is to tell the wife or the husband to stay at home, caring for the children, LOOSING one's income and one would get (at the most) Ł30 a week in compensation. Do we want the nanny state to increase or decrease? Do we want the govt. to interfere with our lives more and more, or do we say, we live in a democratic and FREE society and if that is the life one wants to live, then do not expect me to subsidise one. The other side of the coin is this: If as IDS puts it, single parents are better off then married couples because of all the benefits, (or better still, married couples are being penalised), THEN WHY NOT REDUCE BENEFITS FOR SINGLE PARENTS? that should make them marry! or does it not quite work like that? We are talking about bringing children up in a better envioronment, and education is far far better then what it was 10 years ago. One of the problems today is TOO MUCH MONEY IN PEOPLE'S POCKETS! In my opinion, IDS was a looser as a leader of the Tory party, and as an ex Tory myself, I think that he is still a looser as a shadow minister for families, children and society etc. THE TORIES ARE YET AGAIN TRYING TO MORALISE THE ISSUE. Same OLD tories. Marriage is a MORAL issue and nothing else! IDS has to learn this moral fact first and then come up with so called new ideas! Ex Tories are not so gullible! Thanks Nick.

  • 60.
  • At 01:45 PM on 10 Jul 2007,
  • garry wrote:

The breakdown of society is caused by the interfering nanny state and the minority chattering classes, tax breaks for marraige will not alter this.
Only after returning rights to parents and teaching minors to respect adults will the fabric of society change.
Todays young are taught at an early age, that they are invunerable and answerable to no one,also their rights are backed up at the highest courts in Europe.
Who would want to be a parent now?
Married or unmarried.

  • 61.
  • At 01:48 PM on 10 Jul 2007,
  • Dom wrote:

"Of course, there are plenty of exceptions ranging from the good - lone parents who give their all to their kids - to the bad - abusive fathers who beat their children. However, these examples do not challenge the basic premise."

So lone parents, but abusive fathers? This is sexism, pure and simple. Sort it out.

D

  • 62.
  • At 01:52 PM on 10 Jul 2007,
  • Rob Wills wrote:

What hypocrisy from the Tories.

It was the Thatcher governments of the 80's that turned Public Services into businesses with the inevitable consequences of corruption and / or maladministration.

If MPs,the peoples representatives, a misnomer if ever there was one, ever got to grips with managing the bureacracy, then things might change.

Until then the senior Civil Servants, whether in Whitehall or Shire Hall rule the country with absolute power.

  • 63.
  • At 01:54 PM on 10 Jul 2007,
  • Steven Foucj wrote:

It seems to me that this report is not saying that tax breaks will strengthen marriages. At least, I really do hope not. Tax breaks of the kind suggested would make it easier for one parent to stay at home and care for children, an option that fewer and fewer families find possible, but which research suggests is beneficial to the emotional and educational development of children.

My family can do this, just, because I earn a reasonable (but average) salary and we are frugal (we do not holiday overseas, freecycle, walk most places, etc., etc.). Tax breaks would help my family, but it won't make it easier or harder for us to stick together, we just will have a bit more cash in hand. For other families, that could be the difference between both parents having to work and only one parent having to work full time.

However, much as I am great believer in marriage, I also am not convinced that tax breaks just for the married will make relationships more stable or long lasting, nor will it necessarily benefit more families. So the argument about co-habiting couples, single and parents and those in civil partnerships having tax breaks to care for children is a valid one.

That the Tories have opened up this kind of debate is refreshing. Lets see more of this.

  • 64.
  • At 01:55 PM on 10 Jul 2007,
  • M Howell wrote:

Many years ago a standard family had one wage earner who brought home enough money to live reasonably. It also had a home maker who took care of domestic issues as well as issues around the raising of children. These issues included: pushing them to do well at school; encouraging extra-curricular activities such as learning an instrument; making sure that they were well attended to; encouraging them in the school play etc; organising that week in a cottage at the seaside if you were lucky.
Now a standard family has two wage earners to bring home enough money to live reasonably. Generally they are too exhausted to do all the things proper to a Homemaker. So the kids miss out. Money management misses out. Teaching kids to read and write misses out, in fact all of the things that the homemaker used to do does not get done! Anything that will restore the role of the homemaker (male or female) is a GOOD THING. And the UK will be a happier place to live and grow up in.

  • 65.
  • At 01:55 PM on 10 Jul 2007,
  • Berni Messenger wrote:

Wasn't there a married person's, or married couple's tax allowance at one stage? If it's still in existence, why isn't IDS talking about it? If it isn't, how did it disappear?

  • 66.
  • At 01:55 PM on 10 Jul 2007,
  • Tony wrote:

The Tory policy review is simply a reworking of the former prejudices they had which the electorate rejected in 1997. It is true that the current benefit system is in need of reform but their proposals amount to a euphemism for cutting benefits ? and as usual the worst off will suffer - a well-proved consequence of every Conservative Government. It is ludicrous to suggest that a tax incentive will keep families together. They also conveniently ignore the fact that much of the break up of the family is as a result of their own policies pursued during the 80?s and 90?s ?remember Tebbit?s exhortations to ?get on your bike??

This policy is simply born of the fact that the economy is not failing and the Conservative?s claim to be the party of economic competence is simply not credible to voters. Anyway I thought there was no such thing as society? Or are the Conservatives simply airbrushing out the view of its former leader Thatcher? Same old Tory rhetoric!


It would be helpful first to understand in what way our society is supposed to be 'broken' before rushing into solutions.

For example, is marital breakdown supposed to be bad in itself or just for its consequences? If the former, then a policy to glue unhappy marriages in place might be appropriate (but unlikely to win any elections), if the latter, then policy should address the specifics.

In fact, I expect there is considerable division over what might be wrong. The attitude that leads someone to be a tax exile, for example, could be considered to be the root of the problem, not a symptom.

  • 68.
  • At 01:57 PM on 10 Jul 2007,
  • Richard wrote:

Civil Partnerships are included.

The two which stand out to me are "Front load" child benefits so that families can get up to Ł2,800 a year - three times the current rate - until a child reaches three, with lower payments later on in the child's life"

and

"Lone parents on benefits expected to work 16 hours a week when their youngest child reaches five and 30 hours a week when their youngest child reaches 11"

Also, it's not just about marriage - education, debt and addiction all feature.

  • 69.
  • At 02:04 PM on 10 Jul 2007,
  • Helen D wrote:

Firstly as other comments have observed people usually marry because they have a stable relationship and not vice versa.

Secondly - in my view marriage is an institution and an ideal is based around faith (in the UK our marriage laws are structured on Christian ideas about marriage). As an atheist I don't want to sign up to a contract designed from faith based principles and as such I'm not interested in the current legal wording of marriage. Furthermore marriage law in this country still discriminates against gay people and people who wish to have more than one spouse (a practice permitted in Islam for instance).

This distaste for the legal state of affairs does not cause my relationship to be any less stable or valid (although it does not cause my relationship to be more stable or valid either). The idea that I should pay more tax to basically pay people to go get hitched because the Tories think that not being married is awful is just ludicrous to me - if people want to marry that is between them (and their God/god/gods should they believe in any) it's not my business and nor is it the government's.

I'm all for benefits that help parents (of all stripes) to raise their children well - but they should apply to all parents and not just the ones that conform to outmoded standards of morality; I'd happily pay more tax if I could believe that the money would be spent to the benefit of all children.

  • 70.
  • At 02:04 PM on 10 Jul 2007,
  • Andrew Ball wrote:

If society wishes to value relationships of all kind, then being able to transfer tax allowances is a simple and cost effective way to do it. The current tax regime encourages parents, carers and so on to go out to work and then use this income to pay others to look after their dependants. Given the same untaxed income coming into a household, why is it that you're better off both going out to work, with all the difficulties this entails, rather than one larger income which is contunually being erroded by tax rates which go up slower than income ?

Why not go the whole hog and scrap a load of means testing and other complicated allowances by allowing transfer of tax allowances for other dependants (i.e. children, older relatives). This would allow the social services to concentrate their resources on those who truely need it, rather than handling the massive volumes that the current tax credit regime demands.

The result though is that it comes with a bill attached of over 6 billion which it claims can be paid for by a tougher and more efficient welfare system.

Tougher, more efficient, fairer: pick any two of those three.

  • 72.
  • At 02:08 PM on 10 Jul 2007,
  • Robin Terry wrote:

Don't be taken in by the Tories whining about a "broken society". If I recall correctly, wasn't it one Margaret Thatcher who declared that "there is no such thing as society"?

  • 73.
  • At 02:19 PM on 10 Jul 2007,
  • Steve wrote:

Its the lies that are the biggest problem

1) Unemployment figures are hidden
2) The open door allows in cheap drugs
3) EU workers taking what work there is
5) Media influneces like Music
6) 4th largest economy for a select few others are in poverty

You go through school where teachers are powerless you test boundaries where you can get away with anything. SO bring back the cane as a deterent

You go out to meet Girls you have little money but thats OK every other person is a drug dealer trying to look cool and make a little money.

Stop the open borders so drugs cant get in through immigrants or EU lorries.

You have no money now or drugs and there is no work. aND EVEN IF THERE WAS what is my lifes ambition?

To settle down with a nice girl and a home and pursue my hobbies with a nice job.

Stop the open door return all those here illegally this saves money on services and the welfare state but it also frees up jobs where employers have been using cheap labour. NOW have to pay proper wages. My housing is available house prices go down HEY now I can get a job and a home.

The reality is the government loonie lefties care more about immigrants than indigenous.

SO Leave school undisciplined uneducated jobless with no future take cheap drugs and sign on unless the government can weasel out of it. If a girl get pregnant get free flat house go out who cares.

There now that was easy wasnt it?

  • 74.
  • At 02:22 PM on 10 Jul 2007,
  • Anonymous wrote:

This has nothing to do with encouraging marriage and more to do with winning elections. A quick look at the results of the last census shows:
Of all households with dependent children 59 per cent are married couple households, 11 per cent cohabiting couples and 22 per cent lone-parent families (London 26.2 per cent).
Married couples make up 50.7 per cent of the population of adults (aged 16 and over) and occupy around 45 per cent of households. (this comprises married couples plus all pensioner households many of whom will be married).

  • 75.
  • At 02:24 PM on 10 Jul 2007,
  • Ron P wrote:

Of course civil unions will not be included in this "deal".

They have been extremely careful not to mention civil unions and have specifically stated "marriage".

Cameron was completely opposed to civil unions until he became the leader of the party and then a few months ago he went back to his old bigoted stance. He stated that the Tories were going back to their traditional party platform of "traditional family values".

  • 76.
  • At 02:27 PM on 10 Jul 2007,
  • Brian Kelly wrote:

If "Kerrie" the undecided voter sees/dislikes the Tories message on stable relationships & this determines her vote...bye bye Kerrie.

  • 77.
  • At 02:34 PM on 10 Jul 2007,
  • James wrote:

When people talk about the 'broken society' I doubt very much they are talking about the type of people who take time to debate issues on here.

They are talking about the people who are in the queue waiting for their dole, or in the pub spending it, rather than at work. They may have a kid that they never see, and if they do, thay take them to the pub with them.

They are not particularly bothered about the tax they pay. They probably haven't a clue how much they pay in the first place, even if they have a job.

The arguments about tax and marriage is a false debate. I would rather see the money going to compulsory parenting classes for both mother and father, regardless of them being married or not. There should also be tough punishments for those parents who 'neglect' the social wellbeing of their children. For instance, if a crime is committed by the child and it can be shown that his/her parents have made no attempt to reform their childs behaviour. The punishments could be banning them from licenced premises or from buying alcohol or confiscating thier tv licence. Something that will force both parents, married or not to look after their children.

Again, we are not talking about anyone who might have written anything on here. We are talking about people who have got to be taught that when you have a baby, planned or not, relationship or not, that they will have to accept their committment to it, and their committment to bring up their child together (but not necessarily in a relationship with) the other parent.

  • 78.
  • At 02:36 PM on 10 Jul 2007,
  • Eamo wrote:

Not sure if this is where the Tories are coming from but I see the proposal like this: if the kids of married parents *generally* - and I stress, *generally* - cause less hassle and contribute more to society, those parents deserve a reward for creating the right conditions. OK, it's not perfect and there'll be lots of exceptions (including a single mum in my own family who's raised two great kids), and lots of people who will immediately take offence but it's a start...

  • 79.
  • At 02:41 PM on 10 Jul 2007,
  • Barry Scarr wrote:

From what I can gather, seeing IDS plodding around a Glascow estate last night on TV, the 'broken britain' tag seems to be aimed at an underclass that has existed since the late 1980's. Unemployment, drug addiction, high crime rates, educational underchievment, teenage pregnancies etc. Some of the middle class debate about marriage, relationships, civil partnerships etc. that has been posted seems all well and good, but that's not really where this is aimed. If we accept that an individual's tax situation is not a major factor in deciding the break up of a realtionship (and lets face it, domestic violence, imprisonment, alcoholism and drug abuse are much bigger factors), then offering tax breaks to married people will surely have the perverse effect of taking money off the less well off and siphoning it to the more well off? That being said, I do not think that there are any easy answers. IDS should ask himself how these coommunities got into this state in the first place, and who was in charge when it happended.

  • 80.
  • At 02:43 PM on 10 Jul 2007,
  • Phillip Hoy wrote:

I think a lot of people are seeing this the wrong way. It isn't that changing the current tax system will enocourage marriage as such, it is more the case that the current tax system discourages marriage. Many men now refuse to marry their long term partner because they will be worse off. The current situation is very bad news for women, who have no legal right to their partners home if they are not married. Discouraging people from having children outside of the legal contract we call marriage is therefore a good thing for women and for children.

  • 81.
  • At 02:51 PM on 10 Jul 2007,
  • Andrew Keeble wrote:

For Tony #57 and Robin #63

As usual, predictable as the rising sun, anti-Thatcherites try to decry Margaret Thatcher and Norman Tebbitt by selective example. Why don't you actually print the relevant speeches in full so the true context can be shown? But that would show your assertions to be incorrect, wouldn't it?

  • 82.
  • At 02:52 PM on 10 Jul 2007,
  • Nicolas wrote:

It's a very delicate matter this one.
To promote stable family environments and marriage as a way of life is not such a bad idea. But people should get married because they love each other and not for financial gain. What worries me is that if people get married for the wrong reasons this might end up with more divorce and more single parents.

I'm a single Dad and though my daughter lives with her mother I see a great deal of her. What I do think is a problem is Dad's who turn their backs on their kids, BUT in alot of cases can you really blame them? the courts lean so heavily towards the mother and if the mother so wishes she can make it nigh on impossible for Dad to get access. I was fortunate in that I am extremely strong willed but also was backed up by my family alot of guys don't have that support, they feel powerless. Really and truly I believe that more help for Dad's would go along way to helping our kids grow up to have better lives.

N

  • 83.
  • At 02:55 PM on 10 Jul 2007,
  • Hildebrand wrote:

The attack on the marriage tax allowance began with the Tories and Ken Clarke, that is it was a cultural liberal decision. It has helped smash marriage as the norm and so has indeed dug up the deep structure of society, making it coarse, drunk, druggy, illiterate and so forth. Well done Ken & co. This was really a secularist move - forgetting that the Christian structures of human relating underpin european civilization.
On the multi-culti side of this, Gordon was toying with giving polygamous wives some special tax breaks, how is that getting on? And then the homo-erotic partners, enjoying special treatment denied to friends and siblings who live together without the penetrative dimension which makes the essence of civil partnershp perks.

  • 84.
  • At 02:58 PM on 10 Jul 2007,
  • Morgan wrote:

Can someone please explain to me in what way married couples are being discriminated against?

The Tax Credit system does not favour unmarried or single parents. Married, co-habiting and civil partners receive the same tax credit regardless of their relationship status because the benefit is based on household income and hours worked.

Tax credit includes a premium for single parent families in recognition of the fact that it is relatively more costly to live alone, where couples enjoy economies of scale where charges are per household such as TV licence or council tax.

I am a single parent working full time. I would not marry in order to achieve a tax break in the same way as I am not a single parent because it gives me more benefit. I am a single parent because my partner left me, and the tax credit I receive means that my children and I are not completely broke.

No one chooses single-parenthood because they are 'better off'. It's not a soft option. If any tory politicians would like to try my life out for a week, I'd be more than happy. See how hard it is before you start penalising us!

  • 85.
  • At 03:00 PM on 10 Jul 2007,
  • R. Wragg Sykes wrote:

My perception is that two things are being confused here. If the proposal is about being able to transfer a tax break if the couple is married WITH CHILDREN, that is one thing. But it is not the same as saying there is a tax break for married couples in order to get people to have stable relationships.
If it is indeed about being more flexible with taxes for dual income families and children, then that makes sense. But it would be discriminatory to only include married couples.
People are rightly ridiculing the notion that £1000 over a year would persuade a couple not to divorce: separating is already expensive for the individuals concerned, but when you are deeply distressed you are hardly likely to reconsider for an extra �20 per week.

  • 86.
  • At 03:05 PM on 10 Jul 2007,
  • David Worth wrote:

Something certainly needs to be done to promote married union. If my wife and I had devorced while trying to get our daughter through university we would have been a lot better off. How can families who have high earning estranged partners get full allowences. One girl who received full grants had her own horse stabled near her university her parents were seperated, her father a millionair but the girl lived with her mother. It was a struggle for us but not for people who know how to work the systems. Close the loop holes.

  • 87.
  • At 03:06 PM on 10 Jul 2007,
  • Dave Jones wrote:

Got to laugh at these comments. Every time Gordon Brown increases his useless tax credits, people are moaning about the "hard working couples" not getting anything. As soon as a proposal (and that's all it is at this point in time, it's not even a suggested policy) is mooted, people start attacking it regardless of reading it all!

All I see from this proposal is a slight deviation from the Labour trait of supporting single parents, no matter what.

At least this proposal supports the idea that maybe everyone doesn't want to work, but everyone does want the best for their children. I support it.

  • 88.
  • At 03:08 PM on 10 Jul 2007,
  • Anonymous wrote:

Before we talk about "encouraging marriage" and "penalising single parent families". The simple fact for me is that I am happily married with a much loved 2 year old daughter and a wife (pregnant with twins) who has put her career on hold to invest the time in raising our kids. She wants to go back to work when they are school age. Right now if we were not married (even if we have every intention to stay in a long term commited and loving relationship living together) we would be financially better off because we can effectively "choose" when to be a familly and when to be seperate individuals. Getting married currently removes this choice. If you take the view point of "not discouraging marriage" and "not penalising married couples" does that pint it in a different light?

  • 89.
  • At 03:12 PM on 10 Jul 2007,
  • Vinay wrote:

How about cutting down on umemployment benefits to heal a broken society instead of opening a Pandora's box on the ethics/propreity of marriage? Or are there too many of these jokers on dole to make it politically incorrect to talk about them?

  • 90.
  • At 03:13 PM on 10 Jul 2007,
  • Stephanie Haberfield wrote:

While it may not be the most elegant or subtle of incentives, the Tories' aim surely is to underline the fact that two people are responsible for bringing each child into the world and that the responsibility doesn't disappear minutes after conception.

Children do better with two parents who want to be together. Irrespective of religion or gender, why should two such people be afraid to commit themselves to an ongoing relationship under the laws of this country and thereby benefit from advantages of tax, inheritance, etc?

What Cameron is, I think, saying is that recreational sex can have consequences and that those long-term consquences need to be thought about seriously BEFORE thinking it would be fun to have a kid.

From a cost point of view, I think that the long term reduction in outlay looking after "dysfunctional families" must be worth considering. Also, there can be no good reason for the two individuals who form a family unit to be taxed separately.

It is not only chilfren who benefit from marriage, but the individuals in the marriage do so also from the point of view of long-term health.

There will always be exceptions; parents who are single for no fault of their own or those where the relationship is simply too fraught to continue.

I think the Tories' principle is to be encouraged, but the means need to be less clumsy.

  • 91.
  • At 03:15 PM on 10 Jul 2007,
  • Glen Green wrote:

Many people have stated that tax advantages do not make for a solid relationship, and that people do not get married because it improves their tax-code.
Both of these statements are true, and the Conservatives do not think that ÂŁ20/week will suddenly produce a queue of people all wishing to tie the knot!
What this proposal does is level the playing field. Under this government couples are better off if they live apart. And if they are already living on a shoe-string and if they are aware that their position will worsen should they marry, then they will always remain unmarried - and apart.
This can (and often does) lead to the two of them drifting into other relationships.
On the other hand, if the two could marry without them having to sell parts of their anatomies (to cover their losses), then there is a chance they will marry and stay together - which is much better for any children they may have.

  • 92.
  • At 03:26 PM on 10 Jul 2007,
  • Keith wrote:

How about a radical idea of returning tax back to all the people who pay, not just a subset of the population.

That is what the tories traditionally stood for, small government for all and allowing people to decide what they should spend there money on, no dictated to by a central committee.

As a single working person which party will stand up and ask for my vote with a single good idea, instead they all think that I can be taxed to pay for everyone else.

  • 93.
  • At 03:38 PM on 10 Jul 2007,
  • R.M. Hemer wrote:

In answer to Simon (10 July @ 12.08) -
Hopefully - NO and YES.

  • 94.
  • At 03:46 PM on 10 Jul 2007,
  • Ciaran wrote:

This was reported somewhat differently in the Independent, it said that the allowance was to allow one parent to stay at home to raise the children. This is typical Tory grounds of trying to disincentivise and disconnect women from the labour force, so they can fulfill their 'traditional' role as a housewife. The Tories can stack up their arguments however they like, but they'll never distance themselves from trying to recreate the 'perfect' nuclear family (read sexist, homophobic, repressed and hypocritical), because they simply don't want to.

  • 95.
  • At 03:59 PM on 10 Jul 2007,
  • Alyssa wrote:

My husband and I got married 4 years ago when we were both 22. We don't claim benefits and both work full time. We saved hard and bought a house. We're not layabouts or drunks. Older people don't seem to remember what being young is like, it's hard to make ends meet - we're not spending all our cash on booze, we're trying to make a good life. Twenty quid would double our weekly budget and if the money is coming from people who don't work because it's more beneficial, even better.

  • 96.
  • At 04:11 PM on 10 Jul 2007,
  • Robert Askey wrote:

How very typical of the BBC to critisise this initiative by the Conservative party - much better to leave things the way they are, because after all there is nothing wrong with Britain providing Labour is in power...WAKE UP!

  • 97.
  • At 04:15 PM on 10 Jul 2007,
  • Simon wrote:

So a small cash incentive will fix the issues around divorce and broken homes?

How superficial!

  • 98.
  • At 04:18 PM on 10 Jul 2007,
  • Joshua Flynn wrote:

It strikes me the Tories are taking the usual approach - distracting us by attacking vain and trival ideas of an easier time for marriage, and offering distorted Tax values to get us to vote, whilst the real problems remain undealt with.

Housing, immigration, crime, health services, defence spending, global warming just to name a few of the topics practically ignored, aside from the 'green image', another Tory attempt to get more votes. How can -conservative- values work with change?

I mean observe. Labour reduces Rubbish collection rates (doing it for your own good kinda thing) and the Tory councils try to reverse it.

How can they argue they are truthfully green if they intercept and block all attempts at being Green?

I suppose the Tories are green - green with envy at Labour.

  • 99.
  • At 04:23 PM on 10 Jul 2007,
  • Tony wrote:

Well I got married a month ago, after co-habiting for twenty + years.

Marriage existed before state and church, before taxes, before fire, before Ug scawled his love for Er on a nearby oak.

Get real, a stable family environment, where responsibility is demonstrated is the only thing that has the potential to bring your children up 'right'.
Someone with his collar on backwards, or a piece of paper with a coat of arms on it will never be enough.

  • 100.
  • At 04:29 PM on 10 Jul 2007,
  • D Jones wrote:

Colin Soames gets the prize for delusional Tory of the day:
'All attempts at socialist social-engineering since 1945 have had appalling outcomes for society.'

So universal healthcare is an 'appalling outcome', as is the extension of education, the building of new universities, etc.

Well, Colin can go and live in his 1930s utopia (ah, how blissfully that decade is remembered) if he wants. On his own.

Meanwhile, the Tory party policy review simply tries to reinvent the concept of the 'undeserving poor' - poverty (of opportunity, as well as material) is to be blamed on the five evils - which are, guess what, to do with individuals' behaviour instead of the circumstances they find themselves in.

All that guff, complaining about 'the Nanny State' and now they want to wag their fingers and blame the symptoms of Thatcherism on its victims. Well done.

For Cameron, the business of government is about telling people how to live rather than building a better world for them to live in.

A case of putting the moralistic cart before the redistributive horse - or something. I can hardly bring myself to engage with such a morally and intellectually bankrupt position...

...sounds a bit like 'Back to basics', actually.

  • 101.
  • At 04:31 PM on 10 Jul 2007,
  • Jo Ambrose wrote:

As I understand the proposal, sorry idea, it is to allow the transfer of tax allowances between married couples and those in a civil partnership.


My wife and I both went part time after her maternity leave ten years ago. This meant we both fully used our tax allowances and both formed a close relationship with our children. It really doesn't help if one parent leaves the house at 7 every morning and gets home at 7 every night, but one is home all day with the children. Surely the supposed idea is that children have two parents actively involved in parenting.

Greater help in achieving non standard working hours so child care can be shared would be more positive than a Ł20 a week incentive for one parent to stay at home.

  • 102.
  • At 04:33 PM on 10 Jul 2007,
  • Rob Hirst wrote:

Why are so many people here ranting on about whether this is going to be an incentive for marriage - I think they've missed the point?? To my understanding, the real benefit of such a tax break would be to make it more affordable for 1 parent to stay at home to look after children while the other parent works, rather than just dumping the kids on childminders all week and having the kids grow up without a close family bond, and more likely to become alienated from society. At the moment 2 parents working pay far less in tax (as a proportion of income) than 1 parent working. Also, to those "I'm single why should I pay for people with kids" numptys - if people don't have children, where are the future taxes/pensions/doctors/innovators/ etc etc going to come from!!! Todays parents are the investors in tomorrows society.

Nanny state anyone? A splendid Tory scheme - if you're widowed your tax goes up!

  • 104.
  • At 04:36 PM on 10 Jul 2007,
  • Graham wrote:

No doubt such benefits will yet again fall on the shoulders of us singletons. I suggest to prevent this a tax on divorce to pay for it. Keeps it in the family, so to speak.

Just when you thought the Tories weren't working hard enough to marginalise themselves they come with both extra tax on alcohol and tax breaks that will, true to Tory form, benefit only those of us with the largest wallets.

  • 106.
  • At 04:40 PM on 10 Jul 2007,
  • Ian K wrote:

A few points to note:

(1) This would discriminate against same-sex couples.

(2) This would discriminate against relationship modes containing more than two people.

(3) This would discriminate against people who don't want to get married.

This would basically be, then, a tax on those who don't wish to follow the Tories' particular family structure.

I think legal recognition of the state of marriage is, frankly, outdated. There should, instead, merely be a generic legal mechanism for adjoining people to your family, or two families together, suitable for what we now call marriage, what most people call adoption, and a more Roman mode of adoption where one can allow any person to become a legal member of your family.

Steve #25 opined selflessly
"As one half of a 'young couple' I'm quite insulted by the implication that we need a financial 'incentive' to stay together. If a relationship is only being held together by an extra tenner a week, it's already on shaky ground and SHOULD end."
"What about some scheme for helping first time buyers instead?"

Yeah, 'cos that would bring the price down for first time buyers.

The only way to help first time buyers is to take the heat out of the total market.

Encouraging less singles living apart would, in part, achieve this by reducing the demand for a limited supply.

Why does this represent a tax on singles? Why shouldn't people living together be able to claim the tax breaks afforded to both of them? I bet those in civil partnerships would jump at the opportunity if offered

  • 108.
  • At 05:22 PM on 10 Jul 2007,
  • A Craven wrote:

To all of the people claiming this is some sort of method to discriminate against everyone that isn't married, I suggest you go and read the proposals again. Maybe also read Frank Field's comments.

The sad fact is, financial pressures do lead to some marrages ending, and I challenge anyone to disagree that having two happily married parents is benificial to the upbringing of a child.

This proposal is simply an attempt to level the playing field, so hopefully, finances wont push familes apart.

Some of the posters here need to take their blinkers off and stop automatically assuming that everything the Conservative party proposes is bad and evil.

  • 109.
  • At 05:27 PM on 10 Jul 2007,
  • Philip Bannister wrote:

Just for the record. I don't believe that anybody has yet been the child of a 'single parent'. You will find that each one had TWO single parents who probably lived in TWO separate houses.

Good point Duncan, but you really don't have to spend Ł14,000 on a wedding, it would be much more romantic to do it cheap.


  • 110.
  • At 05:32 PM on 10 Jul 2007,
  • Jeremy Morfey wrote:

There is a false assumption that marriage breakdown is a mutual decision arrived at by two honourable adults, and that all that is needed is a little financial persuasion to these honourable decision makers in favour of marriage.

It ain't so.

Many around me warn me not to get married, for the risks are far more serious than Ł20 a week. I stand to lose my home, contact with my children, half my pension (if I have any), and now thanks to John Hutton, I may even have my passport and driving licence taken away and put under punitive curfew, should my wife decide on a whim to divorce me and screw me for everything. Society rewards women who do this, and there are quite a few professional divorcees around, including a small industry from the Ukraine preying on vulnerable and lonely middle-aged men.

Times have moved on since 1973, when the Matrimonial Causes Act allowed subjective divorce and sustained punitive treatment of men, especially fathers. Since then, women have equal opportunities, and with the exception of a number of male fat cats in the boardroom, are paid equally. More women are in employment than men, and the position at the lower to middle income bracket is biased towards women, whereas those unemployed and in poverty are increasingly male. Women have shown that they no longer need men except to give them a good time. Some even crow that women need men as much as a fish needs a bicycle, and I cannot see why they should continue to receive preferential treatment in the divorce courts.

This is why society and the family is broken.

Rather than a token tax break for married couples, a better solution would be to replace the Matrimonial Causes Act with something that accurately reflects society as it has become now women's supremacy has taken hold.

  • 111.
  • At 05:37 PM on 10 Jul 2007,
  • Chris wrote:

Owinn, so only "those with the largest wallets" are married? Isn't that the problem that the Tories are actually trying to address.
The bottom line is that the Tax and Welfare system is a joke and it certainly has contributed to many of the social problems faced today - that's the issue up for debate.

  • 112.
  • At 05:48 PM on 10 Jul 2007,
  • Gary E wrote:

If a politician were to say the following, he/she would get my endorsement:- "let those earning keep more of the money they earn, let those who want children pay for them out of their own means" Why is noone brave enough to say that society does not owe everyone a living?? If you create a culture of handouts, there will always be people who are happy to rely on this - create a culture of excessive handouts and people will rely upon it excessively.

I personally don't think that people should be condoning or incentivising the actions of others. If you are considering marrige for a tax break then you're obviously misguided. There is also the danger of swinging couples that are considering it too early, leading to a worse situation all round.

I also agree with you Nick, when you say that someone's got to lose out to provide these incentives - there's a limited budget and too many things to spend it on. Efficiency drives all too often lead to further unforeseen expenses in the process.

Kit England

  • 114.
  • At 05:52 PM on 10 Jul 2007,
  • Gary E wrote:

If a politician were to say the following, he/she would get my endorsement:- "let those earning keep more of the money they earn, let those who want children pay for them out of their own means" Why is noone brave enough to say that society does not owe everyone a living?? If you create a culture of handouts, there will always be people who are happy to rely on this - create a culture of excessive handouts and people will rely upon it excessively.

  • 115.
  • At 05:53 PM on 10 Jul 2007,
  • Thomas wrote:

I think we need to stop going on and on about Thatcher in relation to the current Tory Party.

It's as trite saying we mustn't vote Labour because of what happened in the 1970s. After 10 years no-one could argue that the Labour Party of now is the Labour Party of the '70s.

Given it is such a trite intellectual topos, one can only assume that those who use it have a comensurate low level of intelligence and intellectual engagement with this subject. If British politics and, more importantly, British society is to move forward we really need to be bold, empower people by giving them the education they deserve and raise them up from the dark lowlands of ignorance. That would help 'fix' society more than anything else.

  • 116.
  • At 05:53 PM on 10 Jul 2007,
  • Julian R wrote:

Anyone who chooses to marry in order to get Ł20 per week is getting maried for all the wrong reasons.

If I may give young E. Miliband a hand here:

The current reading of the statistics relating to the stability of Marriage shows a staggering misunderstanding of statistics, causes and effect and just about everything else you can imagine.

All that the statistics show is that the people involved in a relationship called Marriage are a little more likely to stay in that relationship longer than those in other named relationships.

However, it does NOT show that the institution of Marriage is the CAUSE of this statistic.

In fact, it can be properly argued that people who commit to marriage do so because they INTEND to stay together longer in the first place.

With that as a basis for argument, this tax relief will encourage people who DO NOT intend to stay together to get married just for the money.

So, we will be chucking a pile of cash in the black hole created by the sadly deluded IDS. (Can I say that here? I will no doubt find out!)

What would be better would be to try and get people to not commit to children unless they are sure they are going to stay together - imperfect, but as far as I think we can go. The rest is down to people's consciences, I am afraid.

I have no objections to the problems of society being fairly addressed, but I object to solutions that are based on someone else's form of Morality - I do not pay my taxes for that!

  • 118.
  • At 05:54 PM on 10 Jul 2007,
  • Danie Jones wrote:

At 12:45 PM on 10 Jul 2007, Duncan Ross wrote:
Given that the avaerage cost of a wedding is over �14 000,

No it's not. Not if you don't invite every single friend and relation you have it isn't.

And about time ALL married couples were given a few tax breaks. This country is far too 'kid-centric' and only seems to reward those who repopulate the earth, preferably single handedly and without any due thought as the being able to AFFORD said children. I am fed up (as many single, child-free people must be) of subsiding other people's fertility!

  • 119.
  • At 05:55 PM on 10 Jul 2007,
  • oniongravy wrote:

The notion that the breakdown of marriage is at the heart of our society's ills is so misplaced. I know of plenty of terrible marriages and wonderful non-marriages, and vice versa. Marriage is, in fact, not the key at all. Love, respect, friendship, tolerance, wisdom, kindness and kinship are the keys and the reason they are in such short supply is that we are a fragmented bunch of self-centred materialists. If the Tories hope to turn back the clock to some extended family, close-knit community idyll, they're living in dreamland. Still, this will play will amongst the Daily Mail readers and that's what counts, and they know it .

Ironically, the people who bleat loudest about the importance of family are also the ones who also bleat about tax breaks. You can't have it both ways: the ideals that are already being peddled to us such as Scandinavian countries are, in fact, high tax paying liberal economies with a very developed welfare state. And they've avoided the total demonisation of the working class that's become so endemic in our culture.

Still, it was always thus in merry old Blighty. Napoleon was right, we are and will always be a nation of shopkeepers, and it always comes down to cash for us, as this policy proves. Shame it's so misguided and futile.

  • 120.
  • At 06:02 PM on 10 Jul 2007,
  • kerrie - Still undecided voter wrote:

Brian Kelly - My decision on who I will vote for depends on what the parties say.This is the first thing the Conservatives have actually stated with some substance since DC became leader.

I was hoping for something new,like Cameron has said,and we seem to have waited an age for hime to show us something.However,as I stated before it's just the same as last time but re-branded.

As I said,I will now look elsewhere if this is what the Tories plan to do when in government.By the way,I don't just mean the tax cut for married parents,I mean the Social Justice Policy Groups Breakthrough Britain.I have now read through most of it,which is just re-hashed ideas from the last few elections that overlap and an awful lot of repetition.

Thanks for the comments by the way..bye,bye Brian.

  • 121.
  • At 06:09 PM on 10 Jul 2007,
  • Anonymous wrote:

"If you're widowed your tax goes up"
Fantastic argument - "if your partner dies then you'd be no better off than you if they die now"

Also your household tax wont go up - it wil go down based on the fact that your income just took a nose dive. However if you were to take the extra 20 quid a week and invest it in a life insurance policy you would get a tax free payout on either partners death - Ł20 per week should easilly provide life insurance and critical illness cover that would mean if that's your beef you could reverse that situation yourself without really trying to hard.

  • 122.
  • At 06:09 PM on 10 Jul 2007,
  • Stephen J. Hulbert wrote:

After 10 years of labour supporting benefit culture, handouts for doing nothing and rewarding the fecundity of the irresponsible it is about time married couples were rewarded, or at least put back on an equal footing with single parent families.

Labour's "equality" is, in fact, social injustice for hard-working, responsible adults who care for their kids and bring them up responsibly. The "unmentionable" truth is that the kinds of people who stay married are the kinds of people who educate, care for and cherish their children and feel part of a family unit.

Labour has spent the past decade rewarded single parents and irresponsible married parents who produce kids and live off child benefits and social welfare. Labour rewards people who dump their disrespectful and uneducated brats on the street (as soon as they can start walking unaided) for the and social services and police to look after.

It's going to take decades to undo the damage New Labour has done, but showuing people that marriage is still a valued institution is a good start.

-A happily married father.

  • 123.
  • At 06:22 PM on 10 Jul 2007,
  • C M Roberts wrote:

Your reporters should do their homework. Waching your evening news I was most upset that an example was made regarding single parents naming Lewis Hamilton as a child brought up just by his father. This is not true from the age of four he has also been brought up by a very loving Stepmother who like his father has made a lot of sacrifices to enable him to become the person he is today.

  • 124.
  • At 06:27 PM on 10 Jul 2007,
  • John Constable wrote:

Government, almost effortlessly, seems to create 'moral hazards' and it seems that in this case, the Tory idea is an attempt to try and ameliorate this specific one, 'broken families' with yet another tax measure.

'Redistribution' is a difficult idea for politicians to 'sell' as it involves extracting money from a generally unwilling client base, that is, working people and handing it out to the selected client groups, usually known as the welfare class.

Thats why 'tax credits' are such a good idea, politically speaking, because they act to blur the boundary between working and welfare people.

Just possibly an idea borrowed from the East German Stasi, 'everybody is a spy and everybody is spied upon' ... i.e. everybody 'contributes' tax and everybody 'receives' tax.

I think it is taking a very narrow and unimaginative view to think that money can solve these 'broken family type' problems, although I am mindful of my grandmothers dictum 'When poverty comes through the door, love flies out the window'.

I was very impressed with a contributor above who, with his wife, both took part-time jobs when they had children.

That, in my opinion, is precisely the area where Government might be able to do something to assist people (if we can bring ourselves to discount what is invariably the saddest joke of all 'I'm from the Government and I'm here to help').

PS. "The person who robs Peter to pay Paul can always depend upon the support of Paul". G.B.Shaw.

  • 125.
  • At 06:48 PM on 10 Jul 2007,
  • Raymond wrote:

Doesn't it strike anyone as ironic that the Tories should be trying to mend a 'broken society'? Afterall it was their 'No such thing as society' polices that led to the breakdown.

  • 126.
  • At 06:48 PM on 10 Jul 2007,
  • Tim wrote:

Its outrageous to force couples to marry in order to avoid IHT penalties accruing to couples who have, for example , bought a family home together. The surviving partner gets hammered if one of the partners dies. Is this just? And in answer to one of the comments on the Newsblog - yes it could force cohabiting couples to marry. Is that desirable or equitable? Is that an honourable way for a government to manipulate the electorate?

  • 127.
  • At 06:54 PM on 10 Jul 2007,
  • ed wrote:

The state is not, should not, and never will be the moral guardian of the people. If people want to drink, they will drink, if they want to get married (or do not) they will do so, if people are driven to drugs then find the social ills that cause the situation.
Its not like prohibition has helped the situation in the slightest.

My Uncle has two children, both lovingly raised by himself and his long term girlfriend, their extra-marital relationship is far more stable than the married one my own parents enjoyed.

If these chumps get elected, I'm leaving this country.

  • 128.
  • At 07:07 PM on 10 Jul 2007,
  • Martin Wright wrote:

An earlier comment about social engineering is right. The problem with social engineering is the people who design it don't need it and the people who need it don't want it. Another is that whenever a scheme is designed it is always criticised for being too costly, brought out on the cheap and ends up costing ten times as much. Marriage was not only about raising children but building alliances, the traditions of marriage had a real sensible basis but now there is a benefits system that when total costs are tallied together then a lot of people cannot afford to work - and instability in relationships (married or not) is encouraged and rewarded by inflexible and insensible benefit rules. The solutions are not simple and it would be great government of any hue that could get that one right.

  • 129.
  • At 07:22 PM on 10 Jul 2007,
  • Mad Max wrote:

Nick’s reference to Beveridge is an interesting one and its worth following the link to discover what happened nearly one hundred years ago in 1911. The year is pivotal in our history and constitution.

The Parliament Act of 1911 allowed the Commons to set and raise taxes without opposition from a democratic process. If one were to ask “Who would repair our Broken Society”? It would be wrong for the answer to come back as Parliament and money? Only society can heal itself. The point I am trying to make is that Parliament is unaccountable when it comes to spending taxpayer's money wisely.

What I cannot understand is how our constitution moved from curbing the spending largess of a Monarchy to a peoples Parliament that behaves just like a Monarchy raising taxes and spending money with abandon. In this respect there is nothing to differentiate any political party as they are all the same.

You cannot cure the ills in our society by throwing money at them. If society is broken but then so is the system that under pins it. It’s the Constitution that should change to bring fresh air to a gasping democracy. Return the power of a fiscal veto back to the House of Lords and let the Monarchy itself resolve deadlock as happened by a back door in 1911.

  • 130.
  • At 07:40 PM on 10 Jul 2007,
  • Sally wrote:

I have thought for a very long time that it is unfair that if someone stays at home to look after children/ elderly parents that their tax allowance cannot be claimed by their working spouse/partner living at the same address. I was lucky when my children were young as my husband was self employed and I worked for him from home and earned an amount upto the taxable limit. Most wives etc of the self employed do this so why shouldn't others.
It's not a great deal of money but everything helps.
I don't believe that they are going to stop helping the single parents(there would be too much of an outcry) but sometimes to redress the balance would be nice.



  • 131.
  • At 07:46 PM on 10 Jul 2007,
  • Alan wrote:

I'm single, guess who is going to pay for this - yup, me, Mr Cash Cow.

Perhaps I should marry a female friend just for the tax advantages

  • 132.
  • At 07:48 PM on 10 Jul 2007,
  • TomTom wrote:

So we spend at least Ł14 billion on Tax Credits and Brown has already written off Ł6 billion as unrecoverable - and how many billion on Stident Loans....and how many billions on IT Projects.....

There is no need to go searching for money when we waste so much on Consultant Fees, on PFI - the NHS pays the bid costs for private companies

There are plans to spend Ł3bn a year on Academies for the next 15 years

Blair pledged a further Ł2.5bn each year to the EU Budget


  • 133.
  • At 07:56 PM on 10 Jul 2007,
  • Stephen wrote:

That a sensible, albeit way too ineffectual, suggestion to somehow put less pressure on married couples to split up (given the current set-up there is precious little, financially, to encourage couples going through those all too common difficulties, to stay together) is the target of so much ill informed vitriol says it all.

I would love for every one of the nay-sayers to spend a little time with me in a my school in a deprived area of East England and see for himself the correlation between divorce and delinquency.

Apart from abortion and widespread availability of contraception I cannot (with one exception which the BBC will not allow me to mention) think of anything that has had a worse effect on society than divorce.

  • 134.
  • At 08:13 PM on 10 Jul 2007,
  • wallace wrote:

For anyone wanting to understand social break down forget the great tombs of sociology and criminology research and instead look into any prison in Britain and there you will find 99.9 % of the populations affected by at least one and probably every other of the 5 "evils " highlighted in this report. A report that goes to the core of the underlying social problems in the UK. No question.

  • 135.
  • At 08:39 PM on 10 Jul 2007,
  • Evan wrote:

"What about civil partnerships?" ... the gay lobby are obviously out in force on this debate! This is a complete red-herring and completely irrelevant to the debate. They account for less than 0.5% of all legally recognised partnerships and an infinitesimally small number of homes with children.

As Nick said in his article this is about how to reward the normative ... we can all come on and quote exceptions or say "what about this poor group of people".

The basic idea of taxation as an incentive is that of carrots & sticks. You reward those things you want to encourage or which bring social benefits (e.g. 'green' fuel, private pensions etc). You penalise those things that you want to discourage or bring social harm (smoking, chelsea tractors etc). As Nick said in his article - and which just about every social survey ever done has proved - marriage on the whole produces the most stable, secure, well-adjusted children. These then become less of a tax burden on the rest of us in the future.

Nobody is suggesting that people will stay together for the sake of a few extra quid each week. However, we surely shouldn't be penalising people for choosing to marry, staying married or raising their own children.

Thank God that the Conservatives are starting to see some sense instead of pandering to the vocifeous minorities.

  • 136.
  • At 09:28 PM on 10 Jul 2007,
  • Dave wrote:

If we didn't have to foot the bill for the Iraq war, a few billion wouldn't be that hard to find.

While agreeing that it might not be the best use of all that money, I'll happily take my share of it, given what Gordon Brown has extracted from me in stealth taxes over the past few years for no visible return.

  • 137.
  • At 09:40 PM on 10 Jul 2007,
  • Jonathan wrote:

Well if we can't agree on any systems why not stop giving any help to anyone and reduce the tax take from people.

Then the individual can decide how best to spend their money. After all, I think I know how to spend my money better than any government.

  • 138.
  • At 09:54 PM on 10 Jul 2007,
  • Katherine Simpson wrote:

HOORAY!!!! I have always voted for the Tories and this has given me an even bigger incentive to do so!

As a wife of a Police Sergeant, and mother of two small children, we are currently living off about �100 a week. We have an average sized mortgage and put the family allowance into both of our daughter's bank accounts each month (�65 each). With other utilty bills we only have �100 approx to live on. We have no other debt and as a single salary household, as you can imagine money gets tight. We try to do the best for our children, but single parents and people on benefits are the people we see going on foreign holidays each year and buying designer clothes etc! (try 2 nights in Dorset, that's our holiday this year)

As middle class homeowners we seem to be penalised the most and so I for one would be extremely thankful for recognition that being a fulltime mother is financially crippling to our family and that we do need tax relief! Even if it is only �20 a week...it's better than a kick in the teeth!

  • 139.
  • At 10:09 PM on 10 Jul 2007,
  • Kathy Hardy wrote:

I think that a lot of people have missed what is the most important point in this article " The argument is really about the best priorities for spending taxpayers' money and whether governments can or even should signal the way people should lead their lives " The Governments job is not to influence what we do, its job is to best utilise our money to provide quality health care, education, transport etc. We need a responsive welfare state to ensure that all have these basic rights. I do not look to MPs to know how much veg I should eat, what time my children should go to bed, how much TV they should watch and what light bulbs I use....I am sick of them trying to parent me and tell me how to parent my kids. I dont see any of them as role models or qualified to make these assertions. There are plenty of professionals out in the field that we can go to for support.

  • 140.
  • At 10:20 PM on 10 Jul 2007,
  • Doc M wrote:

a benefit system that makes it too easy to stay out of work

What?! I have a PhD. I have had only 4 years of full-time paid employment in 14 years, not through lack of trying. I do not like living on only Ł50-odd a week (single, childfree), but when I apply for standard-issue clerical and admin jobs, no-one wants to know because I'm overqualified, and the jobs for which I am qualified are too thin on the ground.

Why on earth would anyone want to be out of work, poor and asked by the DSS to "prove you are actively seeking employment" in writing every fortnight? Don't insult the unemployed.

  • 141.
  • At 10:41 PM on 10 Jul 2007,
  • Antony wrote:

I would like to make 2 points. Firstly there will always be exceptions - unmarried couples who are very stable and bring up lovely children. However this doesn't mean that we shouldn't address the problems in our country.

Secondly, how do those who decry this think we should solve the problems of binge drinking, drugs, crime, grafitti, abuse, behaviour in schools etc etc. This policy is a good first step. As a teacher in a High School I see first hand how home life impacts on teenagers. If families were more stable and parents more supportive of their children and our schools then things would be better. Decency, manners, respect - and if this Tory policy achieves that then it has my full support and my vote come the next election.

  • 142.
  • At 10:51 PM on 10 Jul 2007,
  • J Desmond wrote:

Just as people thought the tories had changed, well today theyve proved those people wrong.Why havnt civil partnerships been mentioned? Also the preaching on how marriage should be an important to society, well maybe some of us would agree but it doesnt gives the tories the right to preach about the morales of marriage. Cameron should stick to politics.

  • 143.
  • At 10:51 PM on 10 Jul 2007,
  • DB wrote:

Politics does seem to be about gimmicks and not about values. Surely, it would be cheaper to ensure that a father of someone's child does not live in her council flat free of charge than for the taxpayer to cough out more still for new tax breaks for those keen on producing more offspring. Would anyone in their right mind have a child if they can't afford it? Having said all that, I do not mind helping the poor and the unfortunate, so long as they really are what they claim to be.

  • 144.
  • At 11:06 PM on 10 Jul 2007,
  • Dan wrote:

In resonse to Ciaran Post 94:

At the risk of being shot, hung, drawn and quartered, may I play advocate to the other point of view.

It could be argued that if one parent in every family was to stay at home and care for the family rather than work, there could be several benefits.

1. There would be no family where 1 parent could not find work because of the vacancies left by those returning home. The possible knock on effects being that long term unemployment ends in individual families, dissaffected young white males rediscover their role in society, self respect returns with a vision for the future.

2. Many children would have a more stable and consistent upbringing. One possible knock on effect being better disciplined, educated and well balanced children.

3. Prices would naturally be lower due to less expendable income per household. Since so many parents did go to work in order to increase family income, did the cost of living (particularly house prices) then rise on account of the extra wealth so that now it is a necessity to have 2 working parents rather than a luxury?

I suppose this is unlikely to happen, so long as individual worth is calculated only on how much you earn.

I think the saddest thing is that many women feel their true value is in the workplace. Like the being slim and toned message from advertising that hacks at self esteem, the same is true for the image of a stay-at-home mum.

I have girl students in my class who really, deep down, want to be full-time mums. Now what's wrong with that? If their hubby can work to support them - nothing. What role can be more important for our society. Unfortunately for my students, womens lib and 2 working parents have pretty much put paid to their goals. To be a stay at home mum, supported by a hubby that works, is now for many youngsters simply no longer an option.

Outraged complainers take a ticket :)

  • 145.
  • At 11:23 PM on 10 Jul 2007,
  • Paul wrote:

Hooray something for the traditional family. Supports proven values and irritates 'alternative' relationships. Great stuff. Gets my vote everytime.

If only every political party were to stand up for whats right!


..and now wait for the bleating cries of unfair....

  • 146.
  • At 11:56 PM on 10 Jul 2007,
  • Jonny wrote:

Hmmm, the headline stuff is "back to basics" indeed.

But there are some things in the policy recommendations that do make sense, for example:

- increase in carer's allowances;
- front-loaded child benefit;
- improving tenure arrangements in social housing;
- more use of credit unions;
- better home-school support arrangements in deprived areas;
- better support for head teachers;
- dedicated drug treatment programmes in every prison

Alongside the normal Tory chuff, for example:

- privatisation of failing schools and welfare-to-work support;
- the emphasis on marriage as the leading family structure - plays well to the Tory heartlands and to middle-class religious types, but is essentially wishful thinking in this age;
- as is a drugs policy with a "lead policy goal of abstinence";
- there's little evidence that drugs testing in schools is actually effective (see https://www.jrf.org.uk/knowledge/findings/socialpolicy/0095.asp ).

All available from here:

https://povertydebate.typepad.com/home/files/sjpg_policy_recommendations.pdf

  • 147.
  • At 08:45 AM on 11 Jul 2007,
  • Janet wrote:

Paul wrote "... abusive fathers who beat their children ..." What a disgraceful generalization. Check the figures, Mr. Robinson, and you will clearly be surprised how many child abusers are women.

I found Mr Robinson's statement to be an unjust sterotype of men too.

  • 148.
  • At 09:19 AM on 11 Jul 2007,
  • Adam Christie-Grant wrote:

I find it most interesting no politician has commented on the correlation between the rise of working hours and the rise of social problems, which of course could alienate business's.

  • 149.
  • At 10:38 AM on 11 Jul 2007,
  • Lizzie wrote:

Has it not been shown that parents at home with their children lead to healthier relationships between the two, allowing for children to develop effectively. I feel 5is a very low age to be sending parents back to work after having children, even if it is part time. This could leave to even more family breakdown, as a mother may become reliant on childcare etc. The child would not see enough of their parents, and their relationship may spiral downhill, possibly leading to drug and alcohol abuse in later years! It is all well and good making her go out to work, but when a relationship is suffering every tory policy seems so hypocritical and pointless.

  • 150.
  • At 11:02 AM on 11 Jul 2007,
  • Graham wrote:

#88 Well put... at the moment we live in a society that "rewards co-habiting (or single life)" and "discourages marraige (or civil partnership" through the tax inquality. All that's happening is the tories undoing the mistake they made getting rid of the married tax allowance with something more modern that actually works with the variety of partnerships that are around today.

#106: Point 1, no it wouldn't... read the comments. Point 2, that's illegal so who cares. Point 3, yes.. I think that's the whole point.

#107 (and Nick): Yes this does seem a very unfair generalisation!

  • 151.
  • At 12:25 PM on 11 Jul 2007,
  • Ciaran wrote:

In response to Dan #144

Your arguments concerning one parent staying at home (I'll come to why they're wrong in a minute ;)) would be far more consistent if you argued this could be true for both parents. However, you seem convinced that it they only apply to women. I fear this clearly demonstrates your sexism: if women want to stay at home to raise kids, why wouldn't men? If one partner could support the other, why should gender play any role in which one works? You are imposing your outdated sexist notions of 'propoer gender roles' on your students, and it undermines your argument to do so.

The reasons you say one parent staying at home would be a good thing are also bizarre. You cannot have deflation and reducing unemployment at the same time. Employment is demand driven, when people have less money to spend, there are less jobs becuase people aren't needed to make/sell/provide what would otherwise have been bought. Tis simple economics...

  • 152.
  • At 12:55 PM on 11 Jul 2007,
  • Thurso Loon wrote:

As someone who has a wife at home looking after the kids, I like this policy. I genuinely believe that having the mother at home (at least for the first few years) gives the children the best start in life.

For this reason, I find it galling that when we went down to one income,my personal tax limit stayed the same. Now, even if I manage to get my earnings to the same level as what the two of us earned before, I will have to pay even more tax just because it is a personal tax limit rather than a couple limit.

What the Tories have just proposed is something I have wanted for years, and I am now suddenly wondering if I should be voting for them...

  • 153.
  • At 04:45 PM on 11 Jul 2007,
  • Alan Bright wrote:

Kendrick Curtis wrote:

good relationship -> marriage

not

marriage -> good relationship


Have you any proof or research to back that, Kendrick? There is plenty that suggests that marriage actually improves a 'relationship'.

Actually being married changes people's behaviour for the better - in general, on average [since we all "know someone who..."].

Granted, there is certainly some 'selection' process involved. People who would make poor spouses tend not to be able to find people prepared to marry them.

In all this, perhaps the aim should be to remove the marriage penalty - ie, a parent being better off living alone with children rather than with a spouse and children. That does seem to be somewhat strange.

  • 154.
  • At 08:39 PM on 11 Jul 2007,
  • notsureofmyname wrote:

I'd argue that the Tories are mearly attempting to appear pro-marriage. This is fine as a stance (although the evidence for this postion is not clear), but this latest wheeze shows how light their policy detail is.

For this policy to be shown to work, you would need to:

- find people that got married who - in the absence of the incentive - would otherwise not have;
- then, from this (I would guess very small number - 20 quid a week weighed alongside other motivations for wanting to spend the rest of your life with another!?!?) you'd then have to find those who would have split up in the absence of a marriage certificate;
- then show how they/their children (if they have them) have benefitted (if at all) as a result...and then what the value of any benefit/savings to the state is.

you'd then have to compare these (I would guess, tiny) benefits to the cost of the policy in the first place (and the opportunity cost - e.g. don't spend it on education or housing for example)....starts to look thin from the outset.

If I were them, I'd fight the next election on Dave's bike riding, because the policy nouce doesn't appear to be there....

  • 155.
  • At 09:40 PM on 11 Jul 2007,
  • David Greenfield wrote:

I'm all for anything that promotes marriage and encourages stability in relationships. Tax incentives will help but there are other areas to be looked at as well if society is to become less broken down.

  • 156.
  • At 10:40 PM on 11 Jul 2007,
  • Dan wrote:

Back to Ciaran 151:

While I am willing to be proved wrong where I am wrong (and respect to your views), we can probably debate until the cows come home, but I do think it unfair to call me sexist.

I'm sorry you think I am sexist, but if you re-read my post you will see that nowhere do I say that women should stay at home - I didn't voice my opinion there. I do point out that the stay-at-home-mum image is being demeaned. But where do I say that I think women should stay at home?

I do give the point of view of some of my female students. For these girls the push to get women into the workplace has undermined what they feel is their true vocation and their ambition - being a mum. If a woman wanting to stay at home and be a mum is holding a sexist view about women - better talk to them.

  • 157.
  • At 10:49 PM on 11 Jul 2007,
  • David Robinson wrote:

Duncan Ross claims that a wedding costs Ł14,000. It does't have to - the official scale fees for a church wedding are about Ł300. If the bride and bridegroom decide to celebrate their marriage at the same time with expensive clothes, a holiday, and a big party, then that is their affair. But it should'nt be seen as part of the financial equation.

  • 158.
  • At 12:07 AM on 12 Jul 2007,
  • Caroline Moiret wrote:

Dear Mr Brown,

The 'disintegration of society' as discussed yesterday on TV: This problem cannot be resolved by encouraging people to remain married by throwing money at them. Marriages do not break down simply because of a shortage of money but because, when there are problems, people do not know how to communicate with each other to sort them out. Instead, people bottle things up until there is an explosion - with all the destruction that follows on.

TV has a lot to answer for here: we have largely forgotten how to communicate with each other but sit - not even facing each other - but facing the box.

Surely, instead of the de-educating effect that low-brow TV is currently having on the population, it could be used to educate people in 'conflict resolution' i.e. how to resolve negative issues, improve communication skills etc. This could be done in a comparatively palatable and entertaining way e.g. the program on how to get toddlers to sleep at night.

Teaching people, especially couples, how to broach problem areas within their relationship, how to say things before they reach a point where one explodes, how to discuss sensitive topics in a non-hurtful, non-threatening, civilised and positive way and how to listen to each other could save thousands of marriages and avoid the current way of resolving problems i.e. splitting up.

There are many psychotherapeutic approaches e.g. gestalt and transactional analysis and also many individuals within the community skilled in conflict resolution and able to offer training.

As a psychotherapist myself, I see the education of people in a) acknowledgment and articulation of grievances, and b) how to broach and discuss difficult issues within their relationship in a non-threatening and non-destructive manner as one of the most important parts of my job and a vital ingredient enabling couples to continue functioning in a mutually supportive way.

It would not be difficult to use TV to help educate people in this vital life skill: How to recognise that there is a problem. How to approach the discussion of the problem. How to present the problem in a non-threatening way. How to move towards possible resolution, etc.


In reply To poster 111
Chris,

I didn't say those with the largest wallets get married, however true that may be, it was the fact that those with higher incomes will benefit more than those on a lower income - this is how conservative tax cuts work.

So we now have the Tories telling us we should get married and drink less, I thought that conservatism was about limiting government involvement in private business of the individual?

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