In the past, both here and in Westminster Hall, I have spoken frequently about issues such as child poverty, food poverty, benefits for single parents, social exclusion and other social problems. On this occasion, I want to express my support, and that of my party, for the married couple’s transferable tax allowance. We gave a manifesto commitment to support it in our Parliament, and we are pleased to be able to support it today as well.
I respect the opinions of Labour Members, and I do not wish to be divisive. I want always to be respectful to Members whose opinions may differ from mine. However, I have a hard-held opinion about this particular issue. I want to help everyone, but I think it is time that married couples had an opportunity to see some benefit from legislative change. Those who support the recognition of marriage in the tax system have waited a long time for the Government to introduce this policy. I expected it to be introduced a long time ago, in view of the Prime Minister’s enthusiasm for what was a headline manifesto commitment, but I am very pleased that, at long last, it is being introduced now.
We have heard some excellent speeches from Members on both sides of the House. I particularly commend the way in which the hon. Members for East Worthing and Shoreham (Tim Loughton) and for Peterborough (Mr Jackson) set the scene. I recall a debate in the House about two years ago to which Fiona Bruce and I contributed. That was one of my early introductions to the cut and thrust of politics here. Most of the Members surrounding me opposed what I was saying, but I held fast to my opinion, and I am very pleased to be able to express it again today.
Let me begin by highlighting some of the powerful public policy benefits of marriage. I shall then explain why I consider clause 11 to be an appropriate public policy response, albeit rather modest—I should have liked to see more.