Tory turmoil as Clarke boasts of “abolishing” married tax allowance

As the Tories prepare to unveil more details of marriage tax breaks, Ken Clarke last night boasted how, as Chanellor in the mid-90s, he "abolished" the policy.

As the Tories prepare to unveil more details of how they will recognise marriage in the tax system with a “£600m marriage tax break”, shadow business secretary Ken Clarke last night boasted how, as Chanellor in the mid-1990s, he “abolished” the policy. In an interview on the BBC’s Campaign Show he said:

“I abolished the married couples’ tax allowance and I thought at the time, as I was raising revenue and cutting the main body of income tax, that was the better way to do it, but the party is committed to recognising marriage in the tax system, there are many ways to do that.”

When asked if he agreed with where it is now he replied:

“I’m not going to trail my coat, but there are some ways you can recognise marriage and family obligations in the tax system which I approve of and George will in due course announce it. It’s not for me to announce it.”

When pressend on whether the cutting of the married tax allowance before wasn’t done on the principle that he thought marriage shouldn’t be in an exalted position he added:

I have been married for a long time and my wife has not put up with me for benefit of the old married couples’ tax allowance, don’t know why she has, but I am very glad she has…

“I have in the past accepted a certain scepticism about this [the Tory proposals], but I’m not uptight about it, there are ways of recognising marriage and family obligations in the tax system which are perfectly sensible in my view and they will be announced in due course, but not by me on your programme.”

Watch it:

This is not the first time Mr Clarke has contradicted David Cameron and George Osborne over tax breaks for married couples. Last January, he attacked the policy as “social engineering“, saying:

“I got rid of the married couples allowance [when I was chancellor] … I really don’t think it’s anything to do with politicians whether you [get married], and most of the younger people I know don’t seem very keen on it.

“My view of Conservatism is that it’s not for us to tell you [what to do through] the tax system – my wife didn’t put up with me because I was getting £150 by way of tax allowance. This is social engineering, for God’s sake, and when I joined the party we weren’t in favour of it.

In January, Left Foot Forward reported renewed confusion over the Tories’ plans, when it was revealed only five per cent of married couples would benefit from the policy. The Mirror found that:

David Cameron’s marriage tax-break bribe would help only one in 20 couples who tie the knot … And he is again in retreat over the plan after a spending black hole was uncovered. Only marrieds with children under the age of three are now expected to benefit…

“But Treasury figures – showing only 6% of those who get wed would be better off – found that would [sic] still cost other taxpayers [£600 million] to be raised through ‘green’ taxes.”

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