confess n rth e
from the state after 75 years
Budget 'good for unmarried families'
BY LUKE COPPEN
FAMILY GROUPS across the political spectrum have criticised the Chancellor's historic decision to scrap married couples' tax allowance, finally ending all State support for marriage.
Presenting his "family Budget" on Tuesday, Chancellor Gordon Brown said that the married couples allowance will be abolished and replaced by a new childrens' tax credit, which he claimed would "leave the average family with children £200 better off."
William Hague, the Leader of the Opposition, replied that the proposal was "good for families who aren't married."
The Chancellor said that the allowance was currently claimed by people who were not married and therefore it was not an effective support of married life. "Far from recognising marriage, it is so confused that it can be claimed at twice the rate a year after a divorce," he said.
The allowance — introduced in the 1920s and worth £285 a year to couples — is seen by family campaigners as the last pillar of State support for marriage. They said this week that scrapping it sent out an anti-marriage message. Patricia Morgan, a family policy expert at the Institute of Economic Affairs, said that the move was "devious and perverse".
She said: "We've got the most anti-marriage, anti-family tax structure in Europe.
"There is no recognition of mutual support and interdependence at all. It's a direct blow to marriage."
Ceridwen Roberts, director of the Family Policy Studies Centre, said that the allowance should have been left in place."I don't think this is the moment to play around with the married couples' allowance," she said. "I think we're beginning to see the emergence of a public debate about the value of marriage and it seems premature to me to alter the married couples allowance in any way."
Tim Montgomerie, director of the Conservative Christian Fellowship, said that the abolition of the last recognition of marriage in the tax and benefits system was "historically significant".
He said: "The Budget is pretending to be for the family. But it is actually replacing the most important relationship in children's lives — the married couple — and saying it is the Government's support for child benefit which is more important for children. Christians should be opposing this."
Mary Corbett, director of Catholic group Marriage Care, said that the move lacked foresight."The publicly committed relationship of marriage is at the heart of the secure society," she said. "The government needs to recognise that marriage is beneficial to the whole economy." Valerie Riches, director of Family and Youth Concern, said: "The married family is the family that the Government must support, but it is the family which is most penalised."
The allowance will end in April 2000.