Clarke Dismisses Tories' Tax and Marriage Plans

Article excerpt

Byline: Benedict Brogan

KENNETH Clarke has dismissed David Cameron's plans to promote marriage through the tax system as 'social engineering'.

The Tory business spokesman criticised the plan to reward couples with tax breaks as unaffordable, it has emerged.

His candid assessment of a flagship Conservative tax policy was made at the end of last year - before his return to the frontbench last week.

Mr Cameron and Shadow Chancellor George Osborne have pledged to scrap benefit rules that pay couples more to live apart, and to introduce a form of transferable allowance for nonworking spouses.

But Mr Clarke, who as chancellor scrapped the married couples allowance, questioned whether a subsidy would make a difference.

And he suggested the policy could fall victim to the economic crisis because there would be no money left to pay for it when the Tories reach power.

Last night Mr Cameron was said to be 'totally relaxed' because Mr Clarke's views were widely known and he had expressed them before returning to the front bench.

But the remarks revived fears among MPs that Mr Clarke is at odds with the Tory leader on a range of issues, including Europe.

Former party leader Iain Duncan Smith, one of the architects of the party's family policy, said Mr Clarke 'will have no influence on policy at all'.

Mr Clarke was speaking at a seminar on the Conservatives at Nottingham University last month.

He said: 'I really don't think it's anything to do with politicians whether you [get married] and most of the younger people I know don't seem very keen on it.

'My view of Conservatism is that it's not for us to tell you [what to do through] the tax system - my wife didn't put up with me because I was getting [pounds sterling]150 by way of tax allowance. …