Coffee House

Tim Loughton attacks coalition’s failure to support married couples

10 December 2012

Tim Loughton was one of the surprise sackings in September’s reshuffle: he was an able minister who knew his portfolio very well indeed. He’s evidently reluctant to let that ability go to waste, and has already made interventions on child protection and benefit cuts. His speech later today for the Centre for Social Justice hits the nail on the head of a big Tory problem: marriage.

Loughton isn’t joining some of his colleagues in attacking gay marriage specifically, but rather the Conservative party’s failure to reintroduce tax breaks for married couples. He has written of his dissatisfaction that the Autumn Statement contained no such measures in the Telegraph today:

Family matters to Mr Cameron and to the Conservative Party. I hope that family still matters to this Government. And under the banner of family, marriage matters especially. A commitment to recognising marriage in the tax system was included in the last Conservative Party manifesto and it was in the Coalition Agreement, notwithstanding the get-out provisions for our Coalition partners to abstain. The statistic that if your parents are still together when you are 16 there is a 97 per cent chance that they are married is in itself enough to justify our enthusiasm.

So it is a huge letdown that last week’s Autumn Statement appears to have failed to make good the Coalition Government’s promise on a transferable tax allowance between married couples. A fully transferable allowance for all one-earner married couples with children under 16 would have been a credible and good place to start.

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Loughton also says the absence of an allowance in the Autumn Statement ‘is particularly worrying because of the lead time it will take for Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs to make the required IT improvements to initiate the transferable allowance in the lifetime of this Parliament and deliver on the Coalition pledge’. This is a point that MPs keen on certain reforms will be making with increasing regularity over the next few months: as James noted in his column this week, ‘time is running out for further radical reform’.

The other thing worth noting which, although Loughton does not explicitly mention it in this piece, is a point that other Tories may wish to make on his behalf, is that while David Cameron is very keen to endorse gay marriage, both as a civil and now religious ceremony, he is not following through with manifesto commitments to rewarding marriage through the tax system. While there are obviously MPs whose comments on gay relationships in general are not exactly helping the Prime Minister’s detoxifying cause, there are many others who just don’t think same sex marriages should be a priority. Encouraging stable relationships is far closer to their hearts. As Tim Montgomerie pointed out in May, coupling tax breaks with gay marriage legislation is something the Prime Minister has already done – as far back as 2006. Perhaps now is the time for him to make that link again to bring on board some of those in his party who are wavering over gay marriage.

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Show comments
  • Troika21

    recognising marriage in the tax system

    Why does Mr. Loughton want to tax single people?

  • Christian Jones

    Supporting homosexual marriage will “detoxify” the Tories? I realise that living in the media/politics bubble can make one hard of thinking but the vast majority of the people of Britain are socially conservative. The reason they don’t vote Tory is they rightly think they’re a bunch of upper and middle class spivs who’d sell their own grandmother for a fiver.

  • Chris

    A minor tax break would do nothing to encourage marriage. It’s a ridiculous idea and a waste of taxpayers’ money.

    • Coffeehousewall

      How can a tax break be a waste of taxpayers’ money when it means that in fact taxpayers are allowed to keep more of what is already their own?

      Your comment simply reveals the socialist ideology that everything belongs to the state. It doesn’t. All taxation is theft and should be justified and democratically mandated.

      Allowing married people to keep more of what is their own can never be a waste of their money. Research has in fact proved conclusively that even a minor tax break would lead to increased uptake of marriage and a greater respect for the institution. All at a saving to taxpayers of the costs due to the much higher incidence of family breakdown of various kinds among the non-married.

    • itdoesntaddup

      That’s a good argument for making it more substantial, as they do in Germany for instance.

  • Vulture

    Isn’t it strange how these brave Tories only come out as dissidents and rebels once they quit office or get sacked and lose the perks, privileges and Ministerial cars & salaries?
    One would have more respect for Loughton as a critic if he had resigned to push his agenda rather than wait to be fired. Ditto ex-Chief Whip Andrew Mitchell who voted against some Govt measure the other day – an action he would never have taken while in office.
    Hypocrites one and all.

    • ScaryBiscuits

      It’s not as easy as that. If you are in government you can implement your ideas with the resources of your department. Outside of government you are reduced to little more than throwing stones (or at least that’s how those in government view it). So the difficult question is do you compromise some of your principles in return for progress on others or do you go into the outer-wilderness whilst less able people do the job that you were offered? Voting with the government if you are a member of it doesn’t make you a hypocrite; it is simply a requirement of the job. When to resign is far from obvious and I know that many ministers are currently struggling with that very issue. Your pay and perks, effectively bribes from the state, don’t make that decision any easier and I am sure many also succumb to them.

      • Vulture

        You make a good case for the Hypocrites, but they shouldn’t take office in a GO=ovt which is pursuing policies in which they don’t believe. Loughton’s account of his sacking suggests that he is a self-important figure who can’t undersatand why he was fired, and we wouldn’t have heard a squeak out of him if he hadn’t been. The same aplies to the embittered Mitchell. And I should have also mentioned Liam Fox, who’s making a pitch for the post left vacant by Boris as the Tories’ Eucosceptic-in-chief – again we wouldn’t have heard from him on the issue if he was still Defence Secretary. Gove, IDS and Paterson are the only Conservatives in the Cabinet and in my opinion they should be devoting their energies to deposing Dave, noit carrying out his insane liberal policies, otherwise they’ll all be out of jobs come 2015.

  • John Steed

    Couples who want to be together will stay together. The idea that an intensely personal decision should be incentivised by the tax system is a bit groteque.

    • ScaryBiscuits

      Yes, but it shouldn’t be disincentivised by the tax system either, which it currently is (and even more so as a result of Osborne’s child benefit changes).

    • Coffeehousewall

      Research shows that this is clearly not the case. Those who do not get married, and are therefore unwilling to commit to each other in a public manner, tend very much more prevalently to not stay together at all, at great cost to society and taxpayers. If you are not willing to commit to each other in public then you have not committed to each other at all.

      • John Steed

        Divorce is pretty costly to society too. There’s no great benefit to society in encouraging people to get married who otherwise would not bother.

  • Colonel Mustard

    Cameron is a dodgy, authoritarian Common Purpose lefty whose only PR consists of pretending that he is a Conservative Prime Minister. He now wants a DNA database of all citizens (for medical purposes only of course). The Coalition Agreement on civil liberties couldn’t have been more of a fairy tale if it had been written by J K Rowling.

    • Heartless etc.,

      “Able” . . . ? . . . ability is treated like a deadly disease by the H2B and his coterie of misfits, wannabes, and EUSSR apparatchiks.

  • John_Page

    Who told you Loughton was an able minister? Our experience was that he was captured by the system.

  • @PhilKean1

    “he was an able minister who knew his portfolio very well indeed”

    No wonder there was no place for him in a Cameron Party regime.

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