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Last Updated: Saturday, 13 October 2007, 12:39 GMT 13:39 UK
Taxes 'should recognise marriage'
Wedding ring (generic)
The Treasury said the comments did not represent a policy change
The tax system should reward married couples, a cabinet minister has said.

Chief Secretary to the Treasury Andy Burnham told the Daily Telegraph: "It's not wrong that the tax system should recognise commitment and marriage."

He did not advocate specific changes to the tax system, but said there was a "moral case" for using tax to promote the traditional family unit.

A Treasury spokesman said the comments did not represent a change of policy and had been taken out of context.

The interview comes a few weeks after the Tories pledged to change the tax system to encourage couples to marry.

BBC political correspondent Robin Brant said in the current climate, where Labour has adopted elements of Tory ideas on inheritance tax, the comments could be seen as the government trying to broaden its appeal.

The Chief Secretary's comments were made in relation to inheritance tax changes, announced this week by the Chancellor,
Treasury spokesman

But the Treasury spokesman said: "It is clear from the interview itself that his quotes were taken out of context."

He added: "The Chief Secretary's comments were made in relation to inheritance tax changes, announced this week by the Chancellor, whereby married couples and civil partners can transfer personal allowances.

"He did not indicate any changes to Government policy and his views are entirely consistent with previously stated policy."

Mr Burnham, who is married with three children, said: "I don't seek to preach to anybody. But in an abstract way I think it's better when children are in a home where their parents are married, and I think children do notice if their parents are married or not."

He added: "I don't think the Tories should have a monopoly on this kind of thinking. This is totally where Gordon (prime minister Gordon Brown) is coming from, your roots and your family are everything."

The Conservatives are yet to give detailed proposals, but a policy group led by former leader Iain Duncan Smith recently suggested a range of proposals including a transferable married couples tax allowance, worth around 20 a week.

The idea of tax breaks to support marriage has previously been criticised by Labour ministers who said it would discriminate against children with separated parents.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown quoted the Bible in what was seen as criticism of the approach in his address to the Labour Party conference earlier this month.

Andy Burnham
Andy Burnham is married with three children

"I say to the children of two-parent families, one-parent families, foster parent families; to the widow bringing up children: I stand for a Britain that supports as first-class citizens not just some children and some families but supports all children and all families," he said.

"We all remember that biblical saying: 'suffer the little children to come unto me'. No Bible I have ever read says: 'bring just some of the children'."

Shadow Chancellor George Osborne said: "For two years, David Cameron has been making the case for recognising marriage in the tax system and Gordon Brown has been attacking him for it.

"Now one of his minions appears to say we are right.

"This is further confirmation that we are in command of the agenda in British politics and the government doesn't know whether it is coming or going."

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