The Independent View: In tough times, parents need the government to help them, not to judge them

fifties-familyBackbench Conservative MPs are causing trouble and the marriage tax allowance is rearing its ugly head again. First, the so-called Alternative Queen’s speech would introduce tax breaks for married couples, alongside other excruciatingly right wing measures such as a Margaret Thatcher Day and the reintroduction of the Death Penalty. Also this week Tim Loughton has tabled an amendment to the Finance Bill which would introduce a tax break for married couples with children under five, where one parent is a breadwinner and the other is a homemaker.

Don’t Judge My Family, the campaign against the marriage tax allowance, has been inundated with emails from people across the country, angry and outraged that the government wants to use the tax system to enforce an old fashioned model of family life. How dare the government tell us being married and having one parent staying at home is the right way to bring up our children?

Those who would lose out from Tim Loughton’s amendment include:

  • those couples who are least well off, where neither parent is able to work
  • single parent families (in which 1 in 4 children grow up)
  • widows or widowers with young children
  • parents where both (or one) earn a low wage
  • parents who choose not to get married.

This is simply unfair. The amendment is a kick in the teeth for all these hardworking families who are doing the best for themselves and their kids. In these tough times, Mums and Dads need the government to help them, not to judge them.

Because the amendment leaves it open for the Chancellor to set the thresholds for the tax break, it’s not yet clear how much this policy would cost. Based on figures quoted by the House of Commons library, we estimate between £0.5bn and £1.5bn. When the government is just about to cut another £11.5bn from public spending, it’s even more outrageous if they can find money to judge our families.

If they were really serious about supporting children and families, they could invest in relationship counselling, reopen SureStart centres, tame the cuts to child benefit or put more money helping families fleeing domestic violence. But they aren’t. They care more about chasing right wing votes.

The Coalition Agreement enables Liberal Democrat MPs to abstain on a marriage tax allowance, although  Nick Clegg is a vocal opponent.  This amendment – to be debated 1st or 2nd July – will not be supported by the government. So Liberal Democrat MPs are free to say what they really think. We hope they join with us and say Don’t Judge My Family!

You can sign up here: www.dontjudge.org.uk and follow at @dontjudgemy

* Julianne Marriott is Campaign Director of Don’t Judge My Family.

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2 Comments

  • “The amendment is a kick in the teeth for all these hardworking families who are doing the best for themselves and their kids. ”

    No, it’s the current system – the one the author’s article supports – that is a kick in the teeth for single income hardworking families. Maybe if the author actually believed in the concept of “Don’t judge my family”, she would ‘t exclude single income families from her category of “hardworking families”.

    This proposal will win votes for the Conservatives from other parties. The Lib Dems as partners in this coalition will lose votes to them if they ignore this idea. “Gifting” votes to other parties does not make electoral sense.

  • Peter Davies 25th Jun '13 - 8:36pm

    The Amendment is unfunded so your list of who loses is pure speculation. There are a lot of ways to raise 1.5 bn that have no impact on any of these groups.

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