Ruth Lister, professor of social policy at Loughborough University and author of Policy Studies Institute report on family finances

"There is no reason why we should be subsidising marriage rather than the raising of the next generation.

"The marriage allowance had become an anachronism. But the Government has wasted an opportunity. By giving a tax credit, the Chancellor has put the money into the wage packet and is undermining the proposals in the Budget that children should benefit.

"If money is paid to mothers directly, then it is much more likely to be used for the direct benefit of children.

"It's a retrograde step to go back to a tax allowance for children - something Labour abolished 20 years ago. It means that in two-parent families with one income, the money goes to the person who is not looking after the children."

David Green, director of the health and welfare unit of the Institute of Economic Affairs, a free market think tank

"This Budget is a nail in the coffin of the institution of marriage. It has devalued marriage by failing to acknowledge its importance.

"Labour are presenting this as a family-friendly Budget, but what they mean by `family' is anybody with children. If you are really interested in the needs of children, then design the tax system to favour a unit with two parents. These policies make it increasingly economically viable to raise children as a lone parent, of whom 90 per cent are women.

"They seem to be driven by gender equalisation. I'm not sure that the likes of Tony Blair, Jack Straw and David Blunkett take the view that women are shackled to men in marriage, but I suspect Patricia Hewitt [Economic Secretary to the Treasury] and Baroness Jay think that. I believe there are key players in the Government who are happy if women live apart from the father of their children.

"But there is a wealth of research showing the ideal is a unit with two parents, from the point of view of the child's health and prospects. We would greatly prefer a tax system that rewarded people for marrying rather than cohabiting, because marriages preceded by cohabitation are more likely to end in divorce."

Martin Barnes, director of the Child Poverty Action Group

"It's nonsense to say that ending the marriage allowance will affect the institution of marriage. The allowance was worth pounds 190 a year; that sum was not going to cement any fractured relationships.

"We support the abolition of marriage allowance but we would have preferred the extra money to be paid directly as child benefit. We just have to hope the increase in money for children in this Budget is not a Trojan horse with means testing as the end result in a few years."

The Rt Rev John Perry, Bishop of Chelmsford and one of the Church of England's family issues spokesmen

"Marriage is a cornerstone of our society and should be acknowledged as such. I very much regret that the Government is not affirming marriage in its tax allowances. I'm not seeking to deny the feminist position, but recognition of the importance of marriage remains vital for a healthy society. I understand that the Chancellor wants to give maximum help in bringing up children and I welcome that wish, but regret the way that it has been implemented."

Peggy Foster, senior lecturer in social policy, Manchester University

"Some might argue that a government should set the moral standards of the country and reinforce them through its taxation policies. But what we have now is a realistic and practical government of a country with no common morality. We have Christians, Muslims, atheists, gay couples and so on, each with their own moral standards. This was an example of practical government, founded on moral relativism. The Government was focusing on what it could do, not lecturing.

"The family as we know it has changed considerably. I cannot see why a married couple without children should get a tax benefit rather than a single parent. After all, many single parents are on their own through no fault of their own."

Mary Corbett, chief executive of Catholic Marriage Care, a counselling charity

"Only naive people would think that the marriage allowance would have kept anyone together, but the allowance was a symbol worth keeping because it pointed to marriage as a worthwhile commitment.

"The metropolitan middle classes seem to be chattering about how marriage has gone, so it is time for everybody to get off the fence and say which side they stand on.This Budget gave off the wrong signals. It is time for a national debate about why we are afraid to applaud marriage.

"In giving the tax credit to earners, the new system does not acknowledge the worth of full-time parenting as an occupation."

Lisa Harker, Save the Children

"Any increase in money targeted at the welfare of children is to be welcomed, but we are concerned that the child tax credit will miss many of the poorest families, where there is not a parent at work. It would have been better paid along with child benefit. That way the neediest would always have benefited."

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