Top 10 articles of the week 28/06/2013

We’re back on schedule this week (articles of the week are usually published on a Friday) and in a period where we’ve seen the US Supreme Court rule that it is unconstitutional for the federal government to define marriage between a man and a woman, and ex-Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi given a lengthy custodial sentence, here are my top ten articles this week. As always, thanks for reading and please feel free to comment. Please note, I don’t necessarily agree with all the views expressed here, but feel that they provoke thought and interest.

  1. Prop 8, DOMA and the Christian response by Ed Stetzer – Christianity Today (The Exchange Blog by Ed Stetzer)
  2. Article 18: An orphaned right – A report by the APPG on Religious Freedom (read Executive Summary)
  3. Married couples to be offered tax breaks before the next election by Rowena Mason – The Daily Telegraph
  4. Can Democrats win back the deep south? By Moly Ball – The Atlantic
  5. Ending poverty by giving the poor money by Annie Lowrey – The New York Times
  6. Italian ex-PM Berlusconi sentenced in Ruby sex case – BBC News World
  7. ‘Who you know’ counts, says survey – BBC News Politics
  8. The state of our welfare: IPPR/YouGov poll reveals opportunites for popular reform by Nick Pearce – IPPR (Nick’s blogs)
  9. ‘We should have talked to Taliban’ says top British officer in Afghanistan by Emma Graham-Harrison – The Guardian
  10. Edward Snowden and the Ecuador Context by M.Carpenter-Arevalo – Medium

The latest on marriage tax breaks – a shabby little compromise?

For those unaware of this long running saga, I shall do my best to summarise where we have got to so far.

This tale begins way back in 2010 when the Conservative Party officially promised to introduce tax breaks for married couples, if they made it into Government.  Their commitment was arguably made yet more official when this policy promise made it into the Coalition Agreement, page 30 to be precise:

We will also ensure that provision is made for Liberal Democrat MPs to abstain on budget resolutions to introduce transferable tax allowances for married couples without prejudice to the coalition agreement.’

With this commitment seemingly set in stone, fans of marriage, family stability and fairer taxation surely had every reason to expect the imminent introduction of this policy.  And why not? With family breakdown costing the taxpayer some £46 billion per year (more than the defence budget), and with cries of the emotional, financial and social costs etc., of ’man deserts’ and family breakdown coming from acclaimed think tanks, any policy that recognised the existence of a non-earning (or significantly lower earning) spouse and unpaid caring should surely be applauded and introduced at the earliest possible opportunity, right?

Fast forward to early summer 2013 however, and despite repeated declarations from the Treasury that this measure will be introduced ‘in due course’billions (literally) are being spent on raising the personal income tax threshold to, and beyond £10,000 (a policy which by the way benefits those who are richest more than the most poor), not to mention the Prime Minister’s memorable pledge to make Britain ‘the most family friendly country in Europe’, what do proponents of this policy have to show for their efforts? Nothing.

Unsurprisingly therefore, there is growing anger on this issue. Having campaigned long and hard for this measure, all advocates have for their labours is a ‘we’ll do it soon’ from the Treasury. But the pressing question still remains: when? Time is marching on and given the time it takes to introduce a measure of this nature, get it through Parliament and become fully operational, the Government surely needs to take more concrete action. In other words, we need a date, now! With all this in mind, it’s no wonder Conservative MP and former front bencher Tim Loughton is to table an amendment to the current Finance Bill, and Tory rebels Hollobone, Chope, Bone and co have included this in their ‘Alternative Queens Speech.’

But wait! Stop the press! Just when all hope seemed to be lost, the Daily Telegraph broke the story that after all this time the Government IS planning to introduce transferable allowances for married couples (TPA’s). David Gauke has given a ‘firm commitment’ that the policy will be introduced by April 2015, during the next General Election, and that any tax breaks will be worth up to £150 to each couple per year.

If we take the date first, this is potentially problematic for a number of reasons, Firstly, there is some trademark ambiguity over the word ‘introduced.’ If the Government means by this that the policy will be announced by this date, but not actually operating until some point later in time, then what might happen if we see a Labour Government after the next election, or a new Conservative leadership that doesn’t share the current Government’s ‘enthusiasm’ for TPA’s?

And then there’s the more concerning issue of the amount apparently in question: £150. Yes folks, that comes to the earth shattering amount of £2.88 per week. What better way to demonstrate your Government’s commitment to marriage than to give married couples slightly less than the amount required to partake in a Tesco lunchtime meal deal (that’s one per week by the way)?  And to those who say that it’s the message that’s more important than the amount, I believe that in a time where living standards have fallen for many families across the UK, the amounts involved concerning prospective family tax policy definitely do matter.

In reality, the only way the Government can demonstrate that their commitment to marriage and the family is a serious one is to introduce a policy that not only recognises marriage and unpaid caring responsibilities, but does so in a way that makes a noticeable difference to the incomes of hard-pressed one-earner families. Indeed, a TPA by its very design is a progressive policy that benefits the poorest families more than those who are richer.

Looking forward, I believe that despite this challenging backdrop there are still a number of good opportunities for this policy to see the light of day: Tim Loughton’s amendment to the Finance Bill being a particularly good example. In addition, there’s the upcoming 2014 Finance Bill which I think realistically speaking is the last point at which a TPA could be announced if it were to be fully operational before the General Election in 2015.

Whatever the future for this policy, the latest supposed Government reassurances, culminating in a letter from Gauke attempting to reassure MPs, acquired and leaked by The Spectator, will do little to calm the obvious tensions present in the Coalition regarding this policy. And the Government would do well to act quickly and decisively, not only to allay the fears of their MPs, but also to show hard-pressed one-earner families that the Government is on their side.

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Top 10 articles of the week – 24/06/2013

In a week dominated by the ongoing crisis in Syria and the privatisation (or not) of  the banks Lloyds TSB and RBS, here are my 10 articles of the week. Note, I don’t necessarily endorse all the views expressed here, but feel that they make interesting and important points. As ever, if you feel the need to comment, please feel free to do so! Thanks for reading.

  1. The Alternative Queen’s speech, the full list of the 40 rebel bills by Mark Wallace – Conservative Home
  2. Ofsted chief says private schools are ‘marooned on an island of privilege’ by Adam Withnall – The Independent
  3. Will data journalism save investigative journalism? By David Hencke – David Hencke Blog
  4. Help! I’m a new Christian. What are the rules on dating? By Mez McConnell  (articles 1 and 2 also worth checking out) – 20 schemes
  5. Five reasons not to privatise RBS by Tony Greenham – New Economics Foundation
  6. A postgraduate loans system is critical to Social Mobility by Annika Olsen – LSE Politics and Policy blog
  7. The Sweidsh riots: What really happened? By Liam Mclaughlin – New Statesman
  8. What we can learn from same sex couples by Glenn T Stanton – First Things
  9. Labour rules out borrowing to reverse coalition cuts – BBC News Politics
  10. Your starter for ten. Which Minister is responsible for families policy? By Paul Goodman – Conservative Home

Top 10 articles of the week – 14/06/2013

This week, we’ve seen our current affairs and news landscape immersed in the revelations relating to PRISM – the so-called NSA surveillance program, a new report by the think-tank the Centre for Social Justice on fatherlessness and family breakdown, and the release of the Government’s latest figures on Poverty. Note, I don’t necessarily endorse all the views expressed here, but feel that they make interesting and important points. Please feel free to comment below! Thanks for reading.

  1. Edward Snowden: the whistleblower behind the NSA surveillance revelation by Glenn Greenwald, Ewen MacAskill and Laura Poitras – The Guardian
  2. Q&A – What is Prism, what does it do, is it legal and what data can it obtain? By Nigel Morris – The Independent
  3. ‘A million children growing up without fathers’ by Hannah Richardson – BBC News Education and Family
  4. NSA slides explain the PRISM data-collection program by Washington Post – Washington Post
  5. A million children are growing up without a father by Claire Carter – Daily Telegraph
  6. The problem with Glenn Greenwald and the creepy cult that surrounds him by Willard Foxton – Daily Telegraph
  7. Miliband and Balls have fallen into a Tory trap by Mehdi Hasan – New Statesman
  8. It’s hard to be optimistic about a reversal of the rising poverty trends any time soon by Conor Darcy – LSE Blogs Politics and Policy
  9. Can business-industry collaboration help us get back on the path to growth? By Richard Muir – National Centre for Universities and Business
  10. The Bible is painfully realistic about the impossibility of any utopia, economic or otherwise, in this fallen world by D.A Carson – The Gospel Coalition

Top 10 articles of the week – 07/06/13

In a week that has been dominated by the vote on Same Sex Marriage and Ed Milliband’s speech on future Labour policy on welfare reform, these are my top ten articles this week. Note, I don’t necessarily endorse all the views expressed here, but feel that they make interesting and important points, observations, predictions etc. Please feel free to comment below! Thanks for reading.

  1. Church of England gives up fight against gay marriage by John Bingham – Daily Telegraph
  2. The most universal benefit of them all by Alex Hearn – The New Statesman
  3. Families to be £1,800 a year worse off by 2015, IFS says – BBC News Business
  4. Why Finnish babies sleep in cardboard boxes by Helena Lee – BBC News Magazine
  5. Gay marriage can’t be traded for tax breaks says equalities minister by Tim Ross – Daily Telegraph
  6. David Cameron believes in marriage so why doesn’t he support it? By Fraser Nelson – Daily Telegraph
  7. Unequal, Unfair and Unhappy: The 3 biggest myths about marriage today by W.Bradford Wilcox – The Atlantic
  8. DJ’s Complaining – Lazy Rich by Lazy Rich – Mixmag
  9. Labour’s record on poverty and inequality by Robert Joyce and Luke Sibieta
  10. Welfare reform – a political battle that affects millions of people by Kate Schmuecker – Joseph Rowntree Foundation blog