October 13, 2007 / 9:20 AM / 10 years ago

Minister backs tax breaks for couples

<p>In this file photo a woman walks her child at sunset in a stroller near a fountain September 13, 2000 in Sydney. Labour could be about to change its policy on tax incentives for married couples after a Cabinet minister said the system should recognise the social benefits of family life, a newspaper reported on Saturday. REUTERS/Ali Jarekji</p>

LONDON (Reuters) - Labour could be about to change its policy on tax incentives for married couples after a Cabinet minister said the system should recognise the social benefits of family life, a newspaper reported on Saturday.

Chief Secretary to the Treasury Andy Burnham said there is a “moral case” for promoting the traditional family through the tax system.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown has preferred to promote the interests of “all children and all families” in the past through the use of his tax credit system, arguing that it would be wrong to discriminate against single parents and co-habiting couples.

“I think marriage is best for kids,” Burnham, a father of three, told The Daily Telegraph.

“It’s not wrong that the tax system should recognise commitment and marriage.”

Brown believes the family is everything, Burnham said. The premier has frequently spoken of the values his father instilled in him, such as respect.

“I don’t think the Tories should have a monopoly on this kind of thinking...This is totally where Gordon is coming from, your roots and your family are everything.”

The Telegraph went on to say that Burnham’s comments were a sign that Labour intended to seize another area of policy from the Conservative Party just days after it was accused of stealing Tory ideas on inheritance tax and penalising non-domiciled workers in the Pre-Budget Report.

David Cameron has made support of marriage a central plank of his party’s election campaign, speaking with pride and affection about his own warm family upbringing during his speech at the Conservative Party conference.

Earlier this year, former Conservative leader Iain Duncan Smith published a social policy review for the party which proposed a transferable tax allowance for married couples to make it easier for mothers to stay at home with their children.

He also recommended removing benefit incentives that encourage couples to live apart.

Burnham, who lived with his partner before getting married, did admit a “fault line” existed in the Labour Party between those who think the state should support marriage and those who do not.

Shadow Chancellor George Osborne told the paper: “This is further confirmation that we are in command of the agenda in British politics.”

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