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Married couples allowance won't need green taxes, say Tories

Screen shot 2010-01-22 at 16.11.42This morning's Telegraph led with the headline, "Tory tax on drivers to pay for marriage allowance" On a day that George Osborne feels he has won a major victory - with Obama issuing the same message on the size and scope of banks - the Telegraph story was an unwelcome distraction.

Mr Osborne denied The Telegraph story on the Today programme, calling it "bizarre", but The Telegraph hit back noting that a policy paper on makes “a commitment to increase the proportion of taxes collected from green taxation, with revenues from the new green taxes going into a families fund that can only be used to reduce other taxes on families".

A party spokesman gave me this statement:

"We are still committed to the Family Fund for any new tax that is designed principally as an environmental tax to change behaviour. But as George Osborne said we have no plans to use higher green taxes to fund our marriage commitment."

What appears to be the case is that the marriage tax allowance (now expected to be focused on couples with very young children and costing £600million) won't be funded by new green taxes or increases in existing green taxes. Any increases in green taxes will be offset by reductions in other taxes and those taxes might not be related to married couples.

Speaking in Kent today (video here) the Tory leader defended his commitment to recognise marriage. I publish an extended section of his remarks below:

"Let me fight back against this sense that we shouldn’t speak up for marriage.

“The arguments they make against recognising marriage in the tax system are basically four. They say that it’s unpopular, they say that somehow it is outdated, they say that it won’t work and then they go on, rather perversely, to say even though it doesn’t work it would be social engineering. Let me take each one of those in turn.

“First this idea that you shouldn’t do something because it’s not universally popular. Well frankly I don’t care whether it is popular or not, I care whether it is right or not. I believe it’s important to say that commitment matters, to say that relationships matter, to say that marriage is a good institution that we should back rather than undermine and that’s why I’m standing here, standing for office and wanting to build a stronger society.

“Now let’s take this argument that somehow it is outdated, that it is backward looking. What is so backward looking in a country where we have social breakdown and social problems of saying that committed relationships, encouraging people to come together and stay together is a bad thing?  Of course it isn’t, it’s not outdated if you look around the European Union, if you look around the OECD, we’re almost alone in not recognising marriage in the tax system. And why do we think, why do we think that with our appalling record of family breakdown that somehow we are in the right position and everyone else is in the wrong position; we’re not, they’ve got it right and we have got it wrong.

“Now the next argument they make is that, of course, this won’t work. Now I don’t believe for a minute that people get married for money or that people will stay together if you give them a few more pounds here or a few more pence there, of course not. But look at the evidence that supports marriage. The fact is, and we can’t hide from this evidence, we should recognise it, that if you look at how many couples are still together when their child reaches its fifth birthday the fact is it’s only one in eleven married couples that have separated whereas with unmarried couples it is one in three. That is a pretty staggering difference.

“And this week evidence was produced to show that when it comes to how many couples are still together when your child reaches their fifteenth birthday ninety seven per cent of them are married couples. Now when you have evidence like that you can either just push it to one side and carry on as you are or you can say this is a good institution and one that we should support.

“Now let me take the last argument that somehow this is social engineering. Now the people who make this argument never seem to say that there’s anything social engineering about a benefit system that can reward people out of, who don’t want to work rather than work or that any of the other things that have gone wrong in our society are anything to do with the tax system and the benefit system.  But I would simply say this; do I think we’d be a stronger society if more people came together and stayed together and committed to each other before they had children? Yes I do. Do I think we’d be a stronger society if more people chose to do that, if more people got married, if fewer people separated? Yes I do.  Do I think that committed relationships really matter? Yes I do. All the evidence tells us that. All of our own knowledge and self knowledge recognises that.

“And the last thing I’d say is this; these people who are attacking me for backing marriage and backing marriage in the tax system all seem to be happily married themselves, why don’t they recognise that what is good for them is something that could be good for the rest of society too? Why are we so frightened of standing up and saying what we believe in?"

Tim Montgomerie


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