David Cameron denies 'war' with single parents over tax breaks

David Cameron denied being "at war" with single parents today as he faced questions over planned tax breaks for married couples.

The Tory leader was accused of "discrimination" as he delivered a speech to members of lone parent charity Gingerbread.

Mr Cameron insisted the Government could not remain "neutral" on the issue of stable family units, and had to send a "long-term signal".

"My view is that there is an importance of trying to say that commitment and relationships and marriage are good institutions. They are good things," he said. "We shouldn't be completely neutral about them as a society.

"I think the tax system and the benefits system as well as helping people in the here and now as it should, also does need to think about what other long-term signals that we are sending out as a society.

"We should be sending long-term signals that are about commitment and the things that encourage commitment. It doesn't disadvantage other people, it's just saying that this is a good institution that society should recognise in such a way."

However, Mr Cameron also stressed that a Conservative Government would not ignore the difficulties single parents faced.

"Lone parents will not be on their own under a Conservative Government," he said. "There is not and never will be a war on single parents."

Apart from defending his party's proposals for tax allowances to be transferable between married couples, Mr Cameron warned that society was ignoring the role of extended families.

He said houses and flats were often being built too small for people to enjoy a family meal, or for grandparents to stay if necessary.

There had been reports that Mr Cameron's aides requested that media access to the event be restricted for fear that he would get a rough ride.

After his speech, one woman single parent demanded: "You talk about tax and that you are looking at providing tax cuts for married couples.

"Do you not think that is discrimination against someone who pays their tax bill every month, and someone who is going to find that my friend down the road who has managed to find Mr Right gets away with paying less tax than I do, just because I am raising my children by myself?

"Also don't you think that's perpetuating the stereotype that actually a married couple is better than a single family?"

Another woman was greeted with applause when she warned that politicians were reinforcing false stereotypes about single parent families.

"What is the Conservative Party going to do to help organisations like Gingerbread to help smash down the images and stereotypes that we have of lone parents?"

Mr Cameron replied: "I think we all have a role in trying to make sure that we portray things in a more reasonable way and a less black and white way."

Gingerbread chief executive Fiona Weir said: "While we welcome his strong message about stigmatising, we would like to see them reflect that through policies.

"He risks making single parents feel like second-class families."

Financial Secretary to the Treasury Stephen Timms accused the Tories of being in an "utter mess" over marriage tax breaks.

"He (Mr Cameron) says he's deadly serious about marriage and intends to spend billions on a tax giveaway to wealthier married couples.

"Then he tries to deny to an organisation of single mums that he intends in any way to discriminate against them.

"The truth is, his marriage tax allowance is unfair and unfunded - it would cost £5 billion and give 13 times as much to those at the top than those at the bottom."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Account Director - Tech Startup - Direct Your Own Career Path

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Telephone Sales Advisor - OTE £35,000

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Telephone Sales Advisor is re...

Recruitment Genius: Appointment Maker - OTE £20,000

£14000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An office based Appointment Mak...

Recruitment Genius: Healthcare Assistant

£7 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This provider of care services is looking for...

Day In a Page

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent