Tory MPs fail in marriage recognition bid

By Ian Dunt

A group of Tory MPs have failed in a rebel bid to get marriage recognised in the tax system.

Fifteen Conservatives and eight other MPs, including three from Labour, voted to provide for a personal income tax allowance transfer between married couples during a debate on the report stage of the finance bill last night.

The clause, tabled by Congleton MP Fiona Bruce, was easily defeated by 473 votes.

"It is striking that surveys demonstrate that approximately 90% of young people aspire to marry, yet that is not reflected in the marriage figures," Ms Bruce told MPs.

"I am not suggesting for a minute that fiscal considerations are the only factor, but the government should at least ensure that it is not more financially detrimental to marry in this country than in other developed OECD countries, if we are to be true to our determination to become the most family-friendly country in Europe."

The idea was strongly opposed by Labour.

'It is astonishing that at a time when millions of families and pensioners are being hit hard by deep spending cuts and tax rises, the first priority of David Cameron's restless Tory backbenchers is unfair tax cuts only for a few," Labour Treasury spokesman David Hanson said.

"And the proposed multi-billion pound marriage tax break would penalise those who are separated, widowed or divorced – many of whom are already being hit hard by cuts to tax credits and childcare support."

David Cameron is still keen to go ahead with plans to recognise marriage in the tax system but he faces deep-seated opposition from his Liberal Democrat partners, not least of all Nick Clegg who branded the plan "immensely unfair" in opposition.

The prime minister still appears committed to the idea, however. Earlier this month he said: "I want us to recognise marriage in the tax system so, as a country, we show we value commitment."

Many analysts expect the Tory commitment to re-emerge in time for the general election, when the coalition partners are trying to distance themselves before facing the electorate.

Last night's vote would have secured married couples benefits of around £1,500.