Finance Bill — 28 Apr 1999
Oliver Letwin MP, West Dorset voted in the minority (Aye).
I beg to move amendment No. 8, page 15, line 20, leave out '2000-01' and insert '2001-02'.
The amendment enables us to have what I trust will be an interesting debate on the married couples allowance, what it seeks to do, how it is to be phased out and the timing of that phasing out. I hope that it will also give us an opportunity to discuss whether the tax system should be neutral in determining people's behaviour. That view is commonly held on both sides of the House, but it is not my view. I believe that the tax system has a real role to play in determining people's behaviour and encouraging behaviour and a way of life that is useful to society. That is not to cast a judgment on other sorts of behaviour but to say that, generally, as every research study shows, marriage is a good thing. Apparently, the whole House believes that.
Whether we should take the next step and say that, having determined that marriage is a good thing, we should use the tax system to encourage it is a different question. It happens to be a question to which I would answer a strong yes, because I believe that the tax system has a useful role to play. It can be used in many other areas to encourage share ownership, private health insurance or pensions provision. That happens to be my personal view. I hope that we can discuss that matter in the context of the amendment, because it is very important.
I welcome the belated recognition by the Treasury that, over the years, the tax system has moved against families in favour of single people without dependants, and that move needs to be reversed. I also welcome the attack that the Treasury seeks to lead on child poverty. However, we should use this debate to question the Government more closely on the figures in the Red Book. Abolishing the married couples allowance in the year that is proposed sends out the wrong message. It seems to devalue marriage, and to take money away from families and give it to other taxpayers.
28 Apr 1999 : Column 381
If the married couples allowance had given people an incentive to get married, and thus supported the institution of marriage, the trend would have been in the opposite direction.
Question put, That the amendment be made:--
The Committee divided: Ayes 131, Noes 296.
Votes by party, red entries are votes against the majority for that party.
What are Boths? An MP can vote both aye and no in the same division. The boths page explains this.
What is Turnout? This is measured against the total membership of the party at the time of the vote.
|Party||Majority (No)||Minority (Aye)||Both||Turnout|
|Con||0||124 (+2 tell)||0||77.8%|
|Lab||269 (+2 tell)||0||0||65.3%|