Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has reiterated his opposition to David Cameron’s proposed tax breaks for married couples.
But he has faced strong opposition to the remarks from commentators in the media, with one saying Mr Clegg was “wilfully missing the point”.
In his speech to the think-tank Demos on Monday Mr Clegg said: “We shouldn’t take a particular version of the family institution, such as the 1950s model of suit-wearing, bread-winning dad and aproned, homemaking mother – and try and preserve it in aspic.
“That’s why open society liberals and big society conservatives will take a different view on a tax break for marriage.
“We can all agree that strong relationships between parents are immensely important, but not agree that the state should use the tax system to encourage a particular family form.”
A source close to the Prime Minister told a national newspaper that Mr Cameron’s commitment to support married couples in the tax system was “absolutely safe and unchanged”.
The proposed tax breaks would also cover homosexual couples in civil partnerships.
Mr Clegg also restated his desire for reform of the House of Lords, saying, according to the text released by his office, “let there be no doubt: if it comes to a fight, the will of the Commons will prevail”.
Before last year’s General Election, Mr Clegg derided the marriage tax break – which could mean married couples receive up to £150 a year – as a “bribe”.
But responding to his new comments, Cristina Odone, of The Daily Telegraph, backed families who “struggle to live with respect, loyalty and charity when those at the top openly mock as ‘old fashioned’ the family — the place where these values are most indelibly taught”.
Writing on the Daily Mail’s website, Nick Wood, former press secretary for Iain Duncan Smith, said Mr Clegg was “wilfully missing the point – marriage confers great benefits on individuals, children, families and wider society”.
He continued: “It makes for stability and civilised behaviour and gives children a sense of identity and responsibility”, something he said was lacking during the summer riots.
And a Daily Telegraph editorial said Mr Clegg is “wrong about the traditional, two-parent family, just as he is wrong about the motives of those who wish to preserve it”.
The editorial commented: “Proponents of marriage are not harking back to an outdated model”.
“They simply believe”, it continued, “that marriage is best for children, and for society – and the evidence supports them”.