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Well done IDS!

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"Many middle class observers sneer that they would never get married or stay married for a tax perk. That ignores the reality of 'life at the bottom'."

Where they are struggling to offset the cost of the 'tax-the-bad' taxes imposed on them by moralising nuts like IDS?

The BBC has been able for the past few days to set its own agenda in the form of ambush on this report. How ?

The simple fact is that unless these anomalies are corrected the welfare state is finished. The rich have opted out of paying for it and it is the middle classes who are carrying the cost of funding income-poor child-rich families of various constellations including the ones created when our Horn of Africa convicted terrorists go to jail leaving their benefit-books to their single-parent concubines.

That taxpayers fund the indolent terrorist buying chapati flour and hydrogen peroxide is bad enough, that we have extended the welfare state into Africa and it now serves as a relief fund for families of terrorists is another nail in its coffin.

There is no need to fear a means-test if you never intend to have means.

The taxes to fund this largesse have raised living costs for middle class families and probably serve as a form of contraception in reducing family size in higher income groups such that only the poor and the rich can afford large families....that the poverty is institutionalised through a benefits system is the obverse of a situation where middle class parents have education costs, housing costs, and little relief in carrying the cost of paying for their own family but also the families of others who earn too little to sustain their progeny.

The BBC is another institution funded from taxation through a poll tax with most BBC journalists and senior executives getting it paid for by the BBC as with magazine subscriptions and TV equipment.

Back in the 1970s Bacon & Eltis published a book - "Britain's Economic Problem - Too Few Producers" - how much of the economy was consumed in non-marketable output especially exports....the situation is far more dire today.

The Government tells us that there is no future in unskilled work and education is key - but that is not true - the rewards to unskilled labour in Britain are very high relative to any other form of work because the tax credit and benefit system erode any market differentials so long as the non-working are child-rich.

The proposals put forward are designed to save aspects of the welfare state from public anger at its inverted value system punishing the responsible and rewarding behaviour that - if not restricted to a minority - could well destroy the whole system and willingness to fund it

Lots of good proposals.

BUT: don't meddle with child benefit, that would be electoral suicide.

An excellent performance by IDS on BBC Breakfast News.

These are the kind of policies we expect from the Conservatives. Socially conservative and socially caring.

IDS may not have ben a hotshot as leader but he is definitely one of the greatest assets the party now possesses.

I look forward to reading later what I think will be a very detailed and well thought-out report.

The immediate challenges, I think will be in our initial policy responses to these suggestions. I don’t think any of us can disagree with the long-term conclusions. I would like to think, however, that we realise that these are long-term aims and that we should not penalise, and indeed have a duty to help, those who are currently seen as living in circumstances that the SJPG report might see as less than ideal. After all, Brown’s system of over-complicated tax credits and little else has not done much to for them.

Firstly, I agree that a strong, stable nuclear family is the ideal environment in which to bring up children. However, in advocating that ideal, I hope that we don’t do anything to signal to for example single parent families, where a striving lone parent is doing their best to bring up a child in difficult circumstances not of their choosing, that we disapprove of their efforts in some way. There are some heroic examples out there that deserve our praise, not our criticism. I know of no little girl who says, “When I grow up, I want to be a single mother!”, but do know several single mothers doing an outstanding job of bringing up their children.

Secondly, the availability of practical support and advice to families I think would be something to be welcomed – it should be freely and very openly available. It is in itself perhaps an acknowledgement that we have witnessed the long-term dissolution of the extended family in sectors of many of our communities. I have to wonder if many of these challenges of life in a new family haven’t been resolved in the past with the assistance of parents, grandparents, uncles and aunts who aren’t quite so easily on hand these days. This isn’t a thought-through proposal by any means, but I wonder whether if this might not be an area where the softer touch of the “neighbourhood voluntary sector” and the rebuilding of street-by-street society could play a better part as a gentle guiding hand, rather than the dead hand of the state.

The thing that sticks in my mind on this from my own childhood is that my “aunt” who helped bathe me as a baby wasn’t a relative at all, but a close neighbour and trusted family friend (she was my godmother, in fact) who delighted in coming by to help out our family wherever she could. That spirit of “family beyond family” is something that many parents (both married and single) sadly do not have the support of today. I’m not sure there is a way for policymakers to encourage that, nor even that it is really within their direct remit, but it is certainly worthy of thought in the wider debate.

I also found related “food for thought”, although perhaps not so literally as the author, in this thoughtful column by Mark Clarke for the Sunday Telegraph a couple of months ago.

from my own childhood is that my “aunt” who helped bathe me as a baby wasn’t a relative at all, but a close neighbour

Who today would need a Criminal Records Bureau check and whose life could be destroyed by any spurious allegation.....the spontaneity of life has been eradicated through bureaucratisation and bureaucracies refuse to be curtailed in exercising their powers to force submission

Have we really lost the plot?

Is the Conservative Party intent on moralising about how people should live their lives…..did I really hear IDS this morning on radio 4 talking about marriage and how it’s preferable to unmarried couples with children?

So, the message from the Conservative Party to all unmarried couples and the children of unmarried couples is that you are second class citizens compared with your married counterparts.

Are we really to believe that £20 a week will be the deciding factor in couples getting married or staying married? Who pays for all this - the taxpayer! What a vote winning strategy – straight from public educated depths of Notting Hill.

Chris King if you actually understood how this country functioned you would know that the Tax and Benefits systems have been merged....it seems quite ridiculous that a single parent should be financially better off than a married couple with children

Chris,poor married couples are already second class citizens in the benefits system IDS' proposals redress the balance.
I listened to the same interview and IDS made the point that children of married couples were 12 times more likely to grow up in two parent famillies than the children of unmarried couples. That appears to be a fact, pity you don't like it.
IDS has costed his proposals at around £6bn.He also estimates the cost of social breakdown at around £102bn. If his proposals do succeed in curing some of these problems this could money very well spent.

Report has been published.


It seems to me that far from there being too much conservative moralising from those that favour marriage, what we face instead is an awful lot of liberal moralising from those that wish to laud cohabitation. And this liberal moralising has got in the way of good practical policy-making for far too long.

Not to mention the judicial moralising which has turned the UK's divorce courts into a one-armed bandit tuned to jackpot for the greedy and the cynical....

A single parent needs more support than a couple. IDS’s plan to give tax and benefit incentives for marriage inevitably means that support for single parents comparatively decreases. Inescapably, children of single parents, for whom life is apparently hardest, will find it gets harder.

The premise for promoting marriage is that children from single-parent families have statistically worse outcomes. While that statistic is true, it does not follow that marriage is a cure. Could you rule out, for example, that a parent’s ability to make good choices is a greater factor? How about a parent’s ability to care?

The idea that people choose to become single parents and that a tax incentive is going to reverse that choice is utterly bizarre! It could only be held by somebody who’s forgotten or never known how much hard work children are. Try looking after two young children single-handed for a week, and then decide whether you’d accept that job for £2,000 a year.

Iain Duncan Smith has just been on the Daily Politics discussing the report and Andrew Neill introduced the item as "the top political story of the day and perhaps of our time".

Actually there wasn't any simplistic moralising about what IDS had to say, this wasn't an attack on single parents or unmarried couples, what it was frankly was an ackowledgment that family breakdown can have consequences in terms of poverty, child welfare, drug and Alcohol addiction and criminality.

IDS actually played down the significance of tax breaks for married couples, in that whilst it may help prevent family breakdown that can be caused by families becoming heavily in debt,it was just one recommendation among 190 and shouldn't dwarf the rest of the report.

The point is, Mark, that at our sort of income level, this type of fiscal incentive makes no difference.

At an income level of say, £15,000 a year, it does. People like Frank Field have pointed out that at that level, the tax and benefits system severely penalises people who choose to get married, so it's reasonable to redress the balance.

Two parent families should be in the same tax / benefit position, whether they are married or not.

We should be promoting flat taxes. People below, say, £20,000 should be exempt from most taxes. I don't doubt that a lot of time and effort went in the report. Nor do I doubt IDS's sincerity. But, on the whole, they're muddled headline-catching ideas designed to appeal to Sun and Mail readers of a certian generation and class.

Chris King make some very valid points.

I just love this initiative and everything that comes with it.

So much has broken down in our society. I think ultimately the five family evils IDS talks about are major contributory factors which impact upon student behaviour/academic attainment in schools and anti-social in our communities. The work that IDS has done looks very promising indeed and I do feel optimistic that he (and his team) have cracked it.

I know someone who worked at CSJ and they have all worked very hard on this project - so, bloody fantastic to them!

There is so much that is currently wrong, the system does appear to be weighted against many people, especially low income families. It is really astonishing that low income couples are financially better off if they live apart. The system is fundamentally flawed with low income families being penalised.

Counselling/practical support for young couples starting out is an excellent idea. Many young couples are really quite naïve and do have a tendency to get into debt because they have never had to manage a budget before, and let’s face it increasing council tax and energy bills are making things less manageable for many folk.

Now, we need to consider an initiative that looks at poverty in old age. The forgotton generation - our old folk, it's not just about the young.

Can I make a different, but slightly related point? I know many young and London people both gay and straight (specific, I know), who work 40 hrs a week for less than 20k. they often work supporting others in key industries and sectors They rent, as they cannot afford to buy - not even the part-buy, part-rent schemes. They pay their income, council, national insurance and vat taxes. They then have the energy and food bills. They spend £1,500pa on travel to and from work. There's little left, if anything, for socialising and leisure activities. Who stands up for these people? Are they the forgotten people? Do people not care about adult poverty?

Well I hope the leadership goes for this, it will show (a) how brave we are as a party and (b)what sort of government we would have.
Well done IDS & team!

What a dreadful set of proposals. As soon as governments start interfering with people's private lives (such as marriage or sex) then you know it's all going wrong. People should marry each other for love, not for financial incentives.

It seems to me that far from there being too much conservative moralising from those that favour marriage, what we face instead is an awful lot of liberal moralising from those that wish to laud cohabitation.

Quite right.

If two people want to shack up together and congratulate themselves on their right-onness that's up to them, but one of the most appalling developments that has occurred over the last 20/30 years is the way in which having children out of wedlock has moved from being universally condemned to being widely tolerated, especially among the chattering classes.

If a man wants to co-habit with a woman without marrying her the reason is usually glaringly obvious. He wants to leave himself a wide open escape route.

Any woman placed in such a situation should tell the man concerned to take a running jump.

BTW isn't this 'partner' twaddle the absolute bitter end? Whenever some jack-in-office asks me whether I have a 'partner' I always reply 'no' and let him scribble away regardless before adding 'But I do have a wife'

Malcolm, it's a couple of hours since I read the list of proposals, but none of them are sticking in my mind as particularly "brave". Which ones are you thinking of?

Traditional Tory@16:12

As I've discussed before, I regard cohabitees as imprudently married, and I hope it is helpful occasionally to explain why they are imprudent.

No policy-making can hope to be morally neutral in the sense that there would not be some moral positions that would favour it more than others. So of course it is true that those that think marriage is a wicked institution because people make promises to each other and are then expected to keep the promises they have made, and isn't it much better to live free and unbound by any promises, and isn't it terrible to suggest that actually we make these promises by our actions even if not with our lips and pens, will think that any measure that favours marriage or reduces barriers to it or enhances its content will be a Bad Thing. But if the evidence is that marriage leads to socially desirable policy outcomes (and it is), then we face a choice between listening to the libertine anti-marriage moraliser and subscribing to his ideological anti-marriage principle, and doing what works. I'm not universally a fan of pragmatism, and indeed if we were having this discussion in the 1950s then I probably would have been naive and foolish enough to oppose marriage (as I did in my youth - not for libertine reasons, but that's another story). But the evidence surely is that marriage works. Presumably that's why it existed in the first place, and society (or at least human nature) has probably changed less than we sometimes imagine.

I hope that the party can lay the blame for the abolition of the married persons tax allowance where it belongs: with Gordon Brown who abolished it as Chancellor in 1999. The present system is biased against couples with one wage-earner. An excellent set of proposals.

Most of it is politically brave Mark in my opinion.As we have seen with Burnhams very predictable attack this afternoon.
Highlights for me are expecting parents on benefits to work part time,contracting out welfare to work schemes to voluntary groups,and introducing drug testing in schools.None of these things are going to be universally popular,I happen to believe they are right.

Agreed, Malcolm. Not clear what the naysayers have to offer as an alternative....

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