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Cameron defends marriage tax breaks plan

By Channel 4 News

Updated on 10 April 2010

Conservative leader David Cameron rejects criticism that his pledge to give married couples a tax break is a "damp squid" which Labour believes would penalise some families.

David Cameron (Getty)

The Conservative leader said that the £550m package, which would make four million married couples £150 a year better off, was only the start of Tory plans.

The plans would impose a new levy on banks' borrowing to pay for the tax break.

Under the plans, basic rate taxpayers would be allowed to transfer £750 of their personal allowance to a spouse or civil partner. Four million married couples would benefit from the plans from next April.

Officials said the measure would benefit just under a third of the country's 12.3 million married couples with the less well off gaining the most. Tory officials said that calculations by the independent Institute for Fiscal Studies suggested the cost of the measure would be around £550 million.

"I am sure over the course of a parliament we would be able to go further," David Cameron said while on his election campaign trail.

Asked whether the current proposals were "damp squib" - as political opponents have claimed - Mr Cameron replied: "Not at all. What matters is the message more than the money."

The pledge touches on the Conservatives' central campaign pledge to fix what they describe as "Broken Britain", a place of family breakdown, crime and welfare dependency.

But Labour has branded the proposals "expensive gesture politics", while the Lib Dems said they were "Edwardian" and "patronising drivel".

On the campaign trail in Scotland, Gordon Brown accused the Tories of taking money away from struggling families.

"I am a believer in marriage, and the institution of marriage is absolutely central and fundamental to our society," the prime minister said.

"But what this is about is giving a little with one hand and taking away a lot, because child tax credits for middle class families are to be cut, child tax credits are to be cut, child trust funds are to be cut, Sure Start children's centres for our children are to be cut, the schools budget is to be cut.

"That is taking money from families with children."

Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg - campaigning with wife Miriam Gonzalez Durantez in his Sheffield Hallam constituency - said the Tory plans were a "throwback to the Edwardian era".

"Miriam and I got married for love, not for three quid a week," he said. "It's patronising drivel."

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