By Tim Montgomerie
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Fifteen Conservative MPs have written to The Telegraph this morning, urging the Tory leadership to introduce a tax allowance for married couples. They write:
"The Coalition Agreement commits the Government to bring forward “budget resolutions to introduce transferable tax allowances for married couples,” while allowing the Liberal Democrats to abstain on them. We are now past the half way point of this Parliament and, as Conservative MPs, we are calling on the Prime Minister to ensure that these budget resolutions are put before Parliament as part of the Finance Bill 2013.
Recent research in America has shown that college graduates who become single parents are likely to be less well off financially than those who only complete secondary education, but go on to marry.
We believe that these proposals are a vital weapon in combating child poverty.
The Prime Minister has always kept the promises made in the Coalition Agreement, whether on pensioners’ benefits, such as free bus travel, or on aid spending. We call on him to commit himself to putting these budget resolutions on transferable tax allowances for married couples before Parliament next year."
Analysis by the charity Care and the Centre for Social Justice has shown that a transferable tax allowance is more pro-poor than the Coalition's flagship tax policy of raising the starting threshold for paying income tax. The policy has three additional benefits – it rewards the marriage commitment; it honours a manifesto promise; it brings us into line with nearly every other developed country in the world, where family breakdown rates are less serious.
Tory MPs are concerned that George Osborne – a self-declared social liberal – is not a believer in a policy that was promoted by David Cameron on the very first day of his bid for the Tory leadership, back in 2005. The Telegraph, Express and Mail all criticise the Chancellor today for suggesting that same-sex marriage is an election winner – as he did in his article for yesterday's Times. Lord Ashcroft has found that the polling evidence is mixed.
Personally, I've argued that the equal marriage policy puts the Conservative Party on the side of social stability and of history but I'm more than aware that it has angered many religious and traditional Conservatives. The Tory leadership would be wise if it listened to these fifteen Conservative MPs and introduced a policy that will appeal to a core conservative constituency. A marriage tax allowance might not persuade traditionalists of the case for equal marriage but it might at least sugar the pill a little. It was also what the Conservative leadership promised in opposition.
The fifteen Tory MPs who signed the letter are listed below. It is notable that former Children's Minister Tim Loughton is the lead signatory:
- Tim Loughton MP
- Sir Gerald Howarth MP
- Nick de Bois MP
- Julian Brazier MP
- Gary Streeter MP
- Stewart Jackson MP
- Priti Patel MP
- Eleanor Laing MP
- Fiona Bruce MP
- Jeremy Lefroy MP
- Charlie Elphicke MP
- Andrea Leadsom MP
- Aidan Burley MP
- Rehman Chishti MP
- Bob Blackman MP.