18 Jun 2007

Unmarried parents - "Why can’t they be left alone?"

Labour’s chaotic approach to relationships for unmarried couples by John Elliott and Claire Newell in The Sunday Times 17th June 2007

"Last week Frank Field, the Labour MP and expert on welfare reform, produced a new analysis of how the [Labour] government’s complicated tax credits and benefits system affects different types of family.

Field found that the system “brutally discriminates against two-parent families”. Startlingly, Field showed that while a lone parent with two children has to work 16 hours a week on the minimum wage to earn £487, a couple with two children would have to slog away for 116 hours.

“I can’t believe the [Labour] government, when it set out, thought this would be the effect,” said Field, adding that there is now a “huge disincentive” for single parents to find another partner, because to do so would incur a large drop in income for both of them.

“There is also a disincentive for two-parent households to tell the truth,” said Field, noting that last year it had emerged that the [Labour] government was paying tax credits or welfare benefits to 2.1m lone parents – 200,000 more than its own official figures said exist. "

But what is really new about this? Lord Stoddart of Swindon, Independent Labour Peer, said about the Conservative Government in a debate on the Family Law Bill [11th January 1996]:

"The [Conservative] Government have been saying over a long period of time that they support the family and marriage, yet all their actions belie that claim. For example, the taxation system - on the pretext of achieving equalisation between the sexes - has progressively worked against marriage. Everyone in the House knows that that is true.

The freezing until the last Budget of the married man's allowance and reducing its value from 25 per cent. to 15 per cent., the refusal to allow the transfer of the personal tax allowances between spouses and from one working spouse to a non-working spouse - thus failing to assist those wives who wish to do so to remain at home and look after their children - has actually been destructive of the family.

My noble friend said that that argument is nonsense. Of course, it is not nonsense. A burden has been put on the family that almost forces both spouses to go out to work. It is a system designed to encourage women to go to work rather than remain at home and look after their own children.

Indeed, as we all know, the social security system itself favours the single parent in many ways, even to the extent that it is financially more favourable for fathers and mothers to live apart. No one can deny that that is happening under the present system.

The impression has been given to women that they do not need a stable relationship with the father of their children as the state will provide. That has all been done under this particular [Conservative] Government who say that they want to retain marriage as a strong institution.

Of course the impression has been given to fathers that they need not worry too much because the state will pick up the tabs.

The social consequences of the single parent family - poverty, crime, deprivation, lack of education and unemployment - are all evils which affect the children of single parent families along with the fiscal and social policies of the [Conservative] Government which have all exacerbated the problems."

Politicians across the political spectrum have been undermining the institution of marriage for a generation. What will make them stop doing this?

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