Higher taxes stop couples marrying, archbishop says

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The Independent Online

Chief Political Correspondent

The Archbishop of York last night warned the Chancellor that higher taxes on married couples were discouraging people from getting married.

As building society figures showed a rise in housing repossessions, the Rt Rev John Habgood told Kenneth Clarke that government policies were undermining the institution of marriage, in spite of Tory claims to be the party of the family.

At a meeting at the Treasury, the archbishop presented figures showing that, because of cuts in the married couples' allowance, a married couple with children depending on a single income would be paying pounds 42 more in tax than five years ago but cohabiting couples who were unmarried were paying pounds 260 a year less tax. With the backing of senior Tory MPs, the archbishop called on the Chancellor in his next Budget to reverse the cut in the married couples' allowance from 20 per cent to 15 per cent.

After the meeting, Dr Habgood said: "The Chancellor said he wanted to build up the institution of marriage. We say how do you transfer that into policies? It made it very difficult for some people contemplating marriage to face the tax disadvantages marriage can bring. We gave him particular instances."

The archbishop told the Chancellor that since the introduction of independent taxation for a husband and wife in 1991, married couples with a single income - households where the wife was likely to stay at home to look after children - had seen their tax allowances fall, while those for unmarried couples had gone up. Figures supplied by the Christian Action Research and Education unit (Care) show that married couples with a single income are paying pounds 172 a year more tax than in 1993/94, on average pounds 3.30 a week extra. In aggregate, they were paying pounds 2bn more in tax.

Many Tory backbench MPs support the Church's campaign, said Michael Alison, the Tory MP for Selby and Church Commissioner, who represents the Church in the Commons.

The Treasury did not rule out reversing the cuts in tax allowances for the family.

Spending cuts backed, page 2

Repossessions rise, page 3