Clause 11 — Tax relief for married couples and civil partners

Part of Oral Answers to Questions — Prime Minister – in the House of Commons at 2:00 pm on 9th April 2014.

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Photo of Tim Loughton Tim Loughton Conservative, East Worthing and Shoreham 2:00 pm, 9th April 2014

My hon. Friend has done a great amount of work on this issue and there is a much bigger picture.

This policy is popular among the public. It is popular with a majority of Labour voters. It is even popular with an awful lot of Liberal Democrat voters, despite that party’s policy being against it. Last May, the Liberal Democrat Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills attacked the “prejudice” directed at stay-at-home mothers. I am sure that he would have included stay-at-home fathers to be inclusive. It is deeply insulting to the many millions of married couples who have decided to make a lifelong commitment to each other that is recognised in law in front of their family and friends to suggest that we are discriminating in some way against other people.

Some 90% of young people aspire to get married. Some 75% of cohabiting couples under the age of 35 also aspire to get married. There are many forms of family in the 21st century and many people do a fantastic job of keeping their families together and bringing up children, often in difficult circumstances. However, as many of my hon. Friends have said, almost uniquely among the large OECD economies, the UK does not recognise the commitment and stability of marriage in the tax system until one partner dies. Worse still, one-earner married couples on an average wage with two children face a tax burden that is 45% greater than the OECD average, and that gap continues to widen.

To introduce such a recognition of marriage, particularly in the modest form suggested in the Bill, is not to disparage parents who find themselves single through no fault of their own, nor to undermine couples with two hard-working parents, all of whom rightly get help and support from the state in other forms and for whom we might need to do more. Uniquely, married couples, civil partners and same-sex marriage partners are discriminated against in our tax system.