Clause 11 — Tax relief for married couples and civil partners

Part of Oral Answers to Questions — Prime Minister – in the House of Commons at 2:15 pm on 9th April 2014.

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Photo of Steve McCabe Steve McCabe Shadow Minister (Education) 2:15 pm, 9th April 2014

I am afraid that is true. I know that some people will not be comfortable with having to be reminded of that, but it happens to be the case.

To return to the point that the Government’s position is slightly misleading, we know that the Prime Minister himself has been confused about it. Like his hon. Friends, he thought that he was introducing a policy for all married couples paying the basic rate of tax. I can imagine that, in this day and age, it is pretty hard for the poor Prime Minister to keep up with the all the shifts and machinations in his Government, but surely there is something wrong with a policy that deludes even the Prime Minister into thinking he is giving a tax break to all married couples paying the basic rate, which he is not. Thank goodness we have had the opportunity to set the record straight in this debate; otherwise the poor man might have gone around the country perpetrating that calumny. People might have begun to doubt his work on other things, as well—his whole judgment might have come into question. Thank goodness we have had the chance to challenge that idea.

We certainly need to review the policy, because were it to be extended to the nearly 9 million married couples who pay the basic rate of tax, as the Prime Minister implied, it would cost considerably more than the Chancellor’s projections. For that reason alone our amendment, which asks for a review, is crucial. We need to know exactly what the policy will cost and what it would cost were it to meet the Prime Minister’s aspirations.

As we have heard, the policy will give £200 back to 3.4 million couples, but other Government policies will have made the average family £974 a year worse off by the time of the election. Some 85% of the tax allowance will go to men. Perhaps that harks back to the good old days of Tory marriage—I do not know—but in this day and age I do not think the policy will be broadly accepted by women up and down the country. As we have heard, it will not be available to married couples whose income falls below the personal allowance. [Interruption.] I think Dr Coffey has something stuck in her throat. If she wants to intervene, I—