David Cameron’s big speech on social policy today ran to nearly 1,800 words, but several phrases were missing, among them ‘civil partnerships.’
The Tory leader set out proposals to encourage marriage through the tax system, which might introduce a married couples tax allowance, worth around £20 a week, aimed at making it easier for one parent to stay at home.
Mr Cameron was responding to a report from former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith into the problems facing British society, which presented nearly two hundred policy proposals.
Civil partnerships are mentioned once in a footnote on page 110 of the report into family breakdown.
This appendix to the report was written by independent policy advisers, and says that for their purposes married couples also refer to civil partners.
In contrast to his speech to the Tory party conference last autumn, Mr Cameron chose not to link families and civil partners.
Talking about the importance of marriage in October, he said:
“And by the way, I think it matters, and I think it means something, whether you are a man or a woman, or a woman and a woman, or a man and another man.”
Today he spoke of the importance of families and the “complex and connected problems of poverty, poor education, unemployment, drug and alcohol addiction and debt.”
Mr Cameron, who last week demoted key Tory modernisers Francis Maude and David Willetts, spoke up for the traditional Conservative idea of the family as the answer to society’s ills.
“If we get the family right, we can fix our broken society.”
The Tory leader did not mention whether or not he supports gay family units as equal to heterosexual families.
Under the Civil Partnerships Act, any new law or tax arrangement that applies to married couples automatically also applies to civil partners.
The proposed new “£20 a week” tax allowance would therefore apply to gay and lesbian partners and married couples regardless of whether they have any children.
Single parents, meanwhile, would be expected to work 16 hours a week when their youngest child starts primary school, rising to 30 hours a week when the child is 11.
“Eleven year olds beating each other up and filming it on their mobile phones,” Mr Cameron said.
“Fourteen year olds getting pregnant…children having children. Gangs. Guns. Graffiti. It’s all part of the same story.
“And above all, the sense of social unease is reflected in the breakdown of the family, which is for me the most important institution in our society.
“The family has always been the starting point for everything I want to achieve in politics.
“And with my leadership, the Conservative Party will not shy away from saying the things that need to be said if we’re to mend our broken society.”
Mr Cameron conceded that the UK has become more tolerant under a Labour government.
“It’s good that we’re more tolerant of social change,” he said.
But he attacked Prime Minister as an advocate of “top-down, centralising state control” and claimed only the Tory party is, “serious about tackling Britain’s long-term challenges.
“If Gordon Brown wants to play political games with this, let him. If he wants to defend the anti-marriage bias in our tax and benefits system, good luck to him,” said Mr Cameron.
“He’s on the side of the past, and on the side of social failure. Gordon Brown has poured billions of pounds into the fight against poverty but the nation’s deepest social problems remain untouched.
“We are the only party willing to face up to the root causes.”
Labour critics said that Mr Duncan Smith’s proposals would discriminate against children with only one parent.
The Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, said that the new tax arrangement would disadvantage his gay and lesbian constituents:
“The policy is to give a £20 a week tax break to married couples not on the basis that they were most in need or of household income.
“It is also a homophobic policy as it would not apply to those in civil partnerships.
“London, with its large lesbian and gay population, has a particular interest in rejecting such discrimination.
“Their proposals to penalise those who are not married, single parents, and those in same sex relationships will simply deepen this.”
A spokesman for the Conservative party told PinkNews.co.uk:
“David Cameron’s views on the subject of civil partnerships have not changed.
“We have got a list of recommendations and we will look at them, but if we were talking about a transferable allowances, they would also apply to civil partnerships in that context.”