Clegg to launch report attacking “moralising” married tax break

The Deputy PM’s appearance at the Demos launch will anger the Tory right, but is a relatively safe a

In a move that will anger the Tory right, Nick Clegg is to launch a Demos report (Times article: £) that criticises tax breaks for married couples, saying that the government should not "moralise".

The married tax allowance – which attracted much criticism from both Labour and the Liberal Democrats during the general election campaign – is an important issue for many Conservatives, particularly those on the right of the party. It was one of a set of policies aimed at reassuring this wing that David Cameron's government still had social conservatism and family values at its heart.

The study, The Home Front, describes the married tax allowance as a "weak tool" that will do nothing to improve the lives of children. It also finds that stable single-parent families provide a better environment for children than married couples who argue frequently.

Clegg, who was a vocal critic of the idea in opposition, will give a speech at the launch of the study praising all types of family. Though he is not expected to mention the issue of the married tax allowance directly, his appearance will send a clear message. It could ignite tensions between the Liberal Democrats and the Conservative right, who are already fuming at the lacklustre by-election campaign that the Tory party fought in Oldham.

During the general election race, Clegg said:

David Cameron is plain wrong, totally wrong, to say that we, the country, should spend billions of pounds providing a tax bribe for people simply to hold up a marriage certificate.

It is immensely unfair. What does it mean for the poor woman who has been left by some philandering husband who goes on to another marriage and gets the tax break and she doesn't?

Along with student fees, it is one of the few issues that has a provision allowing the Lib Dems to abstain written into the coalition agreement.

After the Oldham result, Clegg was quick to declare that the fact that the Lib Dem vote held up showed that his party was still "strong, unified [and] independent". Perhaps he hopes to use the married tax break to reassert this and shore up support within his party. While it has the power to anger the marginalised Tory right, it is not an issue that is likely to split the coalition. As such, it is a relatively safe one to shout about.

Samira Shackle is a freelance journalist, who tweets @samirashackle. She was formerly a staff writer for the New Statesman.

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The 5 things the Tories aren't telling you about their manifesto

Turns out the NHS is something you really have to pay for after all. 

When Theresa May launched the Conservative 2017 manifesto, she borrowed the most popular policies from across the political spectrum. Some anti-immigrant rhetoric? Some strong action on rip-off energy firms? The message is clear - you can have it all if you vote Tory.

But can you? The respected thinktank the Institute for Fiscal Studies has now been through the manifesto with a fine tooth comb, and it turns out there are some things the Tory manifesto just doesn't mention...

1. How budgeting works

They say: "a balanced budget by the middle of the next decade"

What they don't say: The Conservatives don't talk very much about new taxes or spending commitments in the manifesto. But the IFS argues that balancing the budget "would likely require more spending cuts or tax rises even beyond the end of the next parliament."

2. How this isn't the end of austerity

They say: "We will always be guided by what matters to the ordinary, working families of this nation."

What they don't say: The manifesto does not backtrack on existing planned cuts to working-age welfare benefits. According to the IFS, these cuts will "reduce the incomes of the lowest income working age households significantly – and by more than the cuts seen since 2010".

3. Why some policies don't make a difference

They say: "The Triple Lock has worked: it is now time to set pensions on an even course."

What they don't say: The argument behind scrapping the "triple lock" on pensions is that it provides an unneccessarily generous subsidy to pensioners (including superbly wealthy ones) at the expense of the taxpayer.

However, the IFS found that the Conservatives' proposed solution - a "double lock" which rises with earnings or inflation - will cost the taxpayer just as much over the coming Parliament. After all, Brexit has caused a drop in the value of sterling, which is now causing price inflation...

4. That healthcare can't be done cheap

They say: "The next Conservative government will give the NHS the resources it needs."

What they don't say: The £8bn more promised for the NHS over the next five years is a continuation of underinvestment in the NHS. The IFS says: "Conservative plans for NHS spending look very tight indeed and may well be undeliverable."

5. Cutting immigration costs us

They say: "We will therefore establish an immigration policy that allows us to reduce and control the number of people who come to Britain from the European Union, while still allowing us to attract the skilled workers our economy needs." 

What they don't say: The Office for Budget Responsibility has already calculated that lower immigration as a result of the Brexit vote could reduce tax revenues by £6bn a year in four years' time. The IFS calculates that getting net immigration down to the tens of thousands, as the Tories pledge, could double that loss.

Julia Rampen is the digital news editor of the New Statesman (previously editor of The Staggers, The New Statesman's online rolling politics blog). She has also been deputy editor at Mirror Money Online and has worked as a financial journalist for several trade magazines. 

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