MPs began debating the report stage of the Finance Bill yesterday, and voting did not finish until nearly 2am this morning.
The most notable point is that there was a rebellion in favour of a new clause to provide for the transfer of personal income tax allowances between spouses.
The new clause was tabled by Congleton MP Fiona Bruce but then moved by Gainsborough's Edward Leigh.
When it was put to the vote, it was defeated by 473 votes to 23, with the following fifteen Tories among the 23 (the others being DUP MPs and three Labour MPs):
In the debate Edward Leigh noted how Britain's tax treatment of one earner couples was out of line with other developed countries: "Britain’s failure to recognise marriage in the tax system meant, as of May 2010, that it was out of line with other developed countries, with the effect that, far from supporting the best child development environment and being family friendly, it was placing a significantly greater proportion of its total tax burden on this family type than was the case in comparable countries. In that context, it is not surprising that family breakdown, the key driver of the broken Britain phenomenon is particularly pronounced and the case for recognising marriage in the tax system is clear and compelling. So all the arguments for recognising marriage in the tax system stand in one key area. The tax burden on one-earner married couples with children in the UK has now risen such that it is over 40% greater than the OECD average."
Stewart Jackson highlighted the fragility of cohabiting relationships: "The average length of cohabitation is just over three years, and led it to conclude in its paper that, compared to marriage, cohabitation was a significantly more fragile and temporary form of family? Just one in 11 married couples split up before their child’s fifth birthday, compared to one in three unmarried couples."
Fiona Bruce argued that we should affirm the popular aspiration to marry: "On the subject of young people’s aspirations, it is striking that surveys demonstrate that approximately 90% of young people aspire to marry, yet that is not reflected in the marriage figures. 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."
Mrs Bruce also noted the cost of family breakdown: "The direct costs of family breakdown are variously calculated at between £24 billion and £41.6 billion per annum—a huge amount of money that cannot be ignored, especially in times such as these. When faced with such enormous figures, a provision such as the transferable tax allowance to support marriage, and in turn to support stable families, who in turn form an important element of promoting the stable communities that we all want and that are so very much needed today, is surely worth considering."
More in Hansard.