Clause 11 — Tax relief for married couples and civil partners

Part of Oral Answers to Questions — Prime Minister – in the House of Commons at 12:42 pm on 9th April 2014.

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Photo of Catherine McKinnell Catherine McKinnell Shadow Minister (Treasury) 12:42 pm, 9th April 2014

We have a much better suggestion as to how the money that has been allocated to the marriage tax allowance can be used to support millions of taxpayers up and down the country, including families with children. So what about those families with children who are hoping in vain for any sign of support from this Government whose tax and benefit changes will result in households being, on average, £974 a year worse off by 2015 than they were in 2010? The Exchequer Secretary, who is in his place, has conceded that of Britain’s 7.8 million families with children, just 1.4 million will benefit from this policy. Yes, that is right—one in six families with children will gain from this marriage tax allowance. To put it another way, five in six families with children will not get a penny from this Government’s flagship policy to support them.

The policy does nothing for widows, widowers, lone parents, long-term co-habiting couples, the 300,000 children living with grandparents or kinship carers or for the spouse who has left their partner for good reason, perhaps because of domestic abuse. It will not help the wife who has been left to bring up the kids after the husband has run off with another woman. If her husband chooses to marry that other woman, who have the Government decided will get the reward within the tax system? It is him.

How much will the allowance be worth for those lucky married couples who will be eligible? Just how much value are Ministers putting on the role of marriage in our society? Yes, for the one in three couples who will benefit, it could be worth up to £200 a year, almost £3.85 a week. To put that into language that people on the Labour Benches might understand—that is just over one pint of beer or a one-off peak game of bingo a week! Who does the Government expect to reap the benefits from this largesse? Let us take a look at their own assessment of the equality impact, which clearly states that while

“couples will benefit as a unit...the majority...of individual gainers will be male.”

But it is not just any old majority. The Government’s own assessment indicates that a staggering 84% of individual gainers will be male.

Before last year's autumn statement, we knew that the net impact of this Chancellor’s tax and benefit changes since 2010 would hit women three times harder than men, not least as a result of his decision to give a £3 billion tax cut to the top 1% of earners in this country, 85% of whom just happen to be men. As a result of the autumn statement 2013, in which the marriage tax allowance was confirmed, that appalling record has worsened even further, such that the Chancellor’s tax and benefit strategy is now hitting women a staggering four times harder than men, raising a net £3.047 billion from men, and £11.628 billion, or 79%, from women—[Interruption.] I hear the word scandalous uttered from a sedentary position, and I quite agree.