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Last Updated: Sunday, 10 December 2006, 12:39 GMT
Hutton rejects family tax breaks
John Hutton
Mr Hutton: Tax not way to keep families together
The idea that tax breaks could be designed to keep families together is "nonsense", John Hutton has said.

The work and pensions secretary said marriage tax allowances had been tried in the past, but had not stopped the divorce rate "going though the roof".

"We have got to look at different solutions - the answer is not to tweak the tax system," he told the BBC.

Conservative leader David Cameron has backed tax breaks for married couples and gay couples in civil partnerships.

The idea that there's a tax break we can design that's going to keep families together is nonsense
John Hutton
Work and pensions secretary

Mr Hutton's comments came as the Conservatives prepare to unveil ex-leader Iain Duncan Smith's social justice policy group's report on tackling poverty in Britain.

The report is expected to say the break-up of cohabiting couples leads to severe social problems and the social consequences - such as drug abuse and poverty - cost the UK 20bn a year.

Mr Duncan Smith, who said the report does not set out policy plans at this stage, told the BBC's Politics Show that marriage had been "undermined" by the tax and benefits system under the Labour government.

Mr Hutton told BBC One's Sunday AM programme the reports of the policy group's findings sounded like John Major's ill-fated "back to basics" campaign of the 1990s or a desire to return to Victorian values.

All shapes and sizes

Asked if he supported tax breaks for married couples, Mr Hutton said: "I think we should support couples who are looking after children.

"But the idea that there's a tax break we can design that's going to keep families together is nonsense.

"We had this in the 60s, 70s and 80s and divorce went through the roof."

Mr Hutton has previously admitted that traditional two-parent families were "invisible" to the state, with all the help focused on lone parents, and pledged a "new deal" for two-parent families.

Since Mr Cameron became Conservative leader he has stressed families "come in all shapes and sizes" and that "stability" is more important for children.

He has called for cheaper child care for lone parents, and also spoken out strongly in favour of marriage as a cornerstone of society, calling for tax breaks for married couples and gay couples in civil partnerships.


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