In response to Kathy Gyngell: How Hammond could put marriage back in fashion, Harry wrote:
Spot on, Kathy. The government’s most effective family policy is the perverse one that pays couples with one child up to £7k more in tax credits to live apart, or pretend to do so. At last count there were 300,000 more people claiming lone-parent tax credits than there are lone parents.
This ‘couple penalty’ grows to £10k with a second child and will get even worse with Universal Credit: more money to claim based on household income means more to lose.
Unless tax credits are scrapped – or time-limited as in the US – the only way to resolve this is with an offset. So reform and focus the current derisory £250 married allowance with a child benefit worth thousands to married first-time mums with children under three. This would be cost-neutral, remove the bias against formal commitment, give couples a genuine choice, and most likely encourage unmarried couples to make some serious decisions about their future as a couple. In other words, commit properly and increase the odds of staying together.