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Coalition divided over tax breaks for married couples

At the time of the 2010 general election, the Conservatives promised a transferable tax allowance worth around £150 to married couples.

The Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg ridiculed the proposals as "patronising drivel that belongs in the Edwardian age".

His party later secured a provision in the coalition agreement allowing them to abstain from voting on the issue.

Labour: Tax break won't help majority of families

Labour’s shadow Treasury minister has accused the Chancellor of "pandering to his backbenchers" and showing favouritism in his pledge to bring in a tax break for married couples.

The Chancellor has hinted that he will announce tax breaks for married couples in the Autumn Statement Credit: Geoff Kirby/Press Association Images

In a statement, Cathy Jamieson said: "Millions of people who are separated, widowed or divorced, as well as married couples where both partners work and use all their personal allowance, won't get any help from this out of touch policy."

She added that the "minority" of people who are eligible for the tax breaks will see the benefits "far outweighed by what George Osborne has already taken away in tax rises and spending cuts".

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Key figures on types of family households

A High Court judge has criticised the Government for focusing on gay marriage plans rather than the "crisis of family breakdown".

Here is a breakdown of the number of families by type:

  • Of the UK's 18.2 million families, 12.2 million are married couples.
  • Number of cohabiting couples has nearly doubled from 1.5 million in 1996 to 2.9 million in 2012.
  • 7.6 million people live alone.
  • Number of married people stayed constant at 21.2 million over a decade.
  • Number of single adults rose by more than 3 million to 15.7 million.
  • There were nearly 2 million lone parents with dependent children in the UK in 2012.
  • 45% of 15- year-olds have experienced parental separation.
  • Cohabiting couples are more than twice as likely as married couples to split by the time a child is 7.

Source: Marriage Foundation, Census

'Switch focus and investment' to marriage breakdowns

  • Sir Paul launched independent charity Marriage Foundation last year to support married couples, but said the charity did not take a stance on gay marriage
  • He says marriage breakdowns and their impact on society affects 99.9 per cent of the population, which is where more investment should be spent

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Gay marriage debate 'affects 0.1% of the population'

Speaking to The Times (£) High Court judge Sir Paul Coleridge said:

So much energy and time has been put into this debate for 0.1% of the population, when we have a crisis of family breakdown. While it is gratifying that marriage in any context is centre stage...but it (gay marriage) is a minority issue. We need a more focused position by the Government on the importance of marriage.

Shadow Home Secretary: Marriage laws 'should reflect modern society'

Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper has responded to reports on the Church of England's comments on same-sex marriage. Ms Cooper said:

Two people who love each other and want to make a long term commitment to each other should be able to get married whatever their gender or sexuality.

Parliament has legislated on civil marriage for 400 years. It should update it again now, as it has many times before, to make sure that the way the state recognises long term loving relationships remains relevant and reflects our sense of justice and equality in a modern society.

David Cameron was right to support same sex marriage. I hope he will not wobble in the face of the first opposition.

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