Fiona Bruce, Conservative MP for Congleton, has tabled an amendment to the Finance Bill going through parliament designed to “encourage marriage”. This particular nuptial inducement would mean that any non-employed spouse would be able to transfer their non-taxable allowance to their partner and thereby reduce their overall tax bill.
Once again we see this Tory-led coalition pursuing its particular version of right-wing ideology. Ms Bruce’s amendment does not simply encourage marriage, it encourages a specific type of marriage, one in which there is an unemployed partner. Fundamentally, this is a bill to encourage marriage where the woman is a housewife. This category applies to fewer and fewer women these days not only because we now live in times where generally two incomes are needed but because the vast majority of women chose to work and thereby lead a multi-dimensional life. This amendment would penalise them for making this choice.
At a time of national stringency it does not appear prudent to reduce the tax for those couples who can already afford for one partner not to work. Indeed, the Lib Dems have a point when saying that it is far more important to increase the taxable limit for all as a means to improving living standards, rather than doubling it only for those who happen to have an economically inactive spouse.
What is more, this amendment penalises married women who work and therefore contribute economically, which is something this government professes to encourage. It also seems odd that Tories believe it is ok to encourage married women to stay at home while insisting that single mothers must work for their keep (and heaven forbid they try to ask for money from an absent partner).
Fiona Bruce’s amendment is simply a misguided attempt to reinstate the family values of yesteryear in spite of all of the evidence that this is neither economically or socially prudent nor in the best interests of women.