Saturday, August 23, 2008

Making Marriage Pay

Posting on the benefits to society of the institution of marriage is a risky business for a politician. It invites criticism and accusations of wanting 'the state' to make inappropriate moral judgement, and interfere excessively in how people live their lives. I'm sorry about this, but when 'the state' has to pick up the tab for the consequences of family dysfunction, 'the state' has no choice but to search for policies which limit the damage. Anyway, I'm so often accused of being a wimpy 'pinko' that I don't mind being branded as of the reactionary right for once.

My support for the introduction of a married couple's allowance has nothing to do with morality, or an opinion that marriage is a 'higher' form of cohabitation. People can live their lives through multiple short term relationships if they want. Makes no difference to me - unless there are children. And then its only on average. In fact, this post is about parenthood, and averages.

Its no good a political party promising to try to mend a 'broken society' without proposals to deliver it. A married couple's tax allowance (or something similar) would be just such a policy. I know that there are many examples of spectacularly performing children brought up be single parents. I know some of them well. And I know it makes no sense for two people who cannot live together in any sort of harmony, to fight on. But look at what happens 'on average'. We know that children with two parents, on average, perform much better than if there is just one parent. And we know that children with two parents, on average, are less likely to fall into a life of dissolution and crime. And we know that on average, two parents are far more likely to stay together if they are married.

So I was really pleased to read the front page of today's Telegraph, which reports that George Osborne, the Shadow Chancellor, is committing himself to building on previous announcements on this subject made by David Cameron. I just cannot see how any Government can claim to be serious about 'mending our broken society' without travelling down this road. Its simple logic.

And personally, I'm also looking forward to a debate about how we can adjust our taxation system to promote and help those involved in the service of providing care to family members who can no longer care for themselves. This is one of the greatest problems facing future governments, and has not received anything like the attention it deserves. A debate for another day perhaps.


Anonymous said...

Does this mean you would, in principle, be in favour of this sort of married couples' allowance being extended to same sex couples in a civil partnership? Even though they're not, technically, "married"?

Glyn Davies said...

anon - I'd need to talk this through before committing myself, but I think that, in principle, I do agree. I can see that there will be less children involved but the key issue is committment to a long term relationship