Monday, October 15, 2007

Brown feels the heat on family policy?

Briefing: this is significant as the first admission that there is a problem in the tax and benefits system discriminating against marriage and stable relationships.

From CFNews: In a major shift in policy, a cabinet minister has called for married couples to get tax incentives from the Government in recognition of the benefits their children and society gain as a result of the union. In an interview with The Daily Telegraph, Andy Burnham, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, says there is a 'moral case' for promoting the traditional family through the tax system. 'I think marriage is best for kids,' he says. 'It's not wrong that the tax system should recognise commitment and marriage.'

His comments will be seen as a sign that Gordon Brown intends to seize another area of policy from David Cameron, following his raids on Tory proposals for cutting inheritance tax, penalising non-domiciled workers and introducing a flight levy.

The Conservative leader has promised to put support for marriage and the family at the heart of his manifesto for the next general election.

Until now, the Government has been reluctant to support marriage, arguing that it would be wrong to discriminate against single parents and cohabiting couples.

As Chancellor, Mr Brown scrapped the married couple's allowance, replacing it with a children's tax credit paid to all parents.

In his recent party conference speech, the Prime Minister cited the Bible as he sought to highlight differences with the Conservative Party on family policy when he said Labour stood for 'a Britain that supports as first-class citizens not just some children and some families but supports all children and all families'.

Last year, Alan Johnson, the Health Secretary, insisted marriage was 'not for everyone' and said the Government should concentrate on children. Ed Miliband, the Cabinet Office minister, also recently refused to say that marriage was the ideal family structure.

Mr Burnham, who is married with three children, stresses that he is not 'judgmental' about single parents, divorced people or cohabiting couples. He lived with his partner before getting married and his first child attended his wedding.

'I don't seek to preach to anybody,' he says. 'But in an abstract way I think it's better when children are in a home where their parents are married and I think children do notice if their parents are married or not.'

The tax system should, he adds, 'recognise' the benefits of marriage for the good for society. 'There's sometimes a metropolitan myth that Labour people are all a bit liberal,' he says. '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.'

Labour's tax policies have been the focus of intense criticism following Alistair Darling's Pre-Budget Report this week.

In particular, reform of capital gains tax has meant that 1.7 million workers who own shares in their employers are facing an 80 per cent increase in tax if they sell them.

On Friday night Channel 4 News reported that Lord Jones, the trade minister, had vigorously opposed the move but was overruled by the Treasury, a claim it denied.

The suggestion that Labour might introduce tax incentives for marriage follows Iain Duncan Smith's social policy review for the Tories earlier this year, which proposed that there should be a transferable tax allowance for married couples in order to make it easier for mothers to stay at home with their children.

They also vowed to remove benefit incentives that encourage couples to live apart.

Mr Burnham admits there is a 'fault line' in the Labour Party between those who think the state should support marriage and those who do not.

'One of Labour's strengths to me is that we're not judgmental about what happened to people in their lives,' he says. 'You help people in whatever circumstances they find themselves, but the system shouldn't be biased against marriage, it should recognise it.'

George Osborne, the shadow chancellor, said on Friday night: 'For two years David Cameron has been making the case for recognising marriage in the tax system and Gordon Brown has been attacking him for it.

'This is further confirmation that we are in command of the agenda in British politics. [Telegraph]

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Pope Leo XIII's Prayer to St Michael

Holy Michael, Archangel, defend us in the day of battle. Be our safeguard against the wickedness and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray, and do thou, Prince of the Heavenly Host, by the power of God, thrust down to Hell Satan, and all wicked spirits who wander through the world for the ruin of souls. Amen