Plans for a marriage tax break worth up to £200 a year have been announced by the Prime Minister.
David Cameron said the move is designed to value the “commitment” and “responsibility” of marriage in society, in a piece for the Daily Mail.
The tax break, to be introduced in 2015, would apply to married couples who are both basic rate tax payers, and where one spouse earns less than the personal tax allowance.
Mr Cameron said the policy would also apply to gay marriage.
He said he is not trying to bribe people to get married.
He said: “This policy isn’t about the money but about the message that people who make a lasting commitment should be recognised in some way.”
He added: “All we’re saying is that marriage is a good thing for our country – it’s the ultimate form of commitment under the law – and we want to show our support for it.”
An editorial in the Daily Mail said the tax break is a “hugely welcome step towards putting right an injustice that has inflicted terrible harm on our society and children’s welfare”.
But the transferable tax allowance has come under fire from opposition politicians and commentators.
Harriet Harman, Labour’s deputy leader, said it is “stigmatising and moralising”, and fellow MP Rachel Reeves, who is in the shadow Treasury team, called it a “policy about division”.
Writer for The Independent Owen Jones said the tax break is, “nothing more than the state tutting at those who do not meet its expectations”.
And Observer columnist Yvonne Roberts said it implies the “commitment of those who live together” is “inferior”.
Writer Dominic Lawson hit back at critics, saying the claim that the policy is “stigmatising” those who aren’t married is a “hysterical overreaction”.
He wrote, “the idea that marriage is the surest way to ensure a stable family life for children — and therefore the most resilient society in the future — is not merely based on ancient prejudices”.
He added: “The most up-to-date research in social science has demonstrated conclusively that the 50-year trend away from marriage has been a catastrophe”.
A group of faith leaders and campaigners recently warned that the Conservative’s initial “low level” marriage tax break pledge of £150 could be seen as an “empty gesture” and should be paid at a much higher rate.
In a letter to the Sunday Telegraph, Bishop Nazir-Ali, Lord Singh, director of the network of Sikh organisations, Robert Woollard, chairman of Conservative Grassroots and others called for all political parties to ensure the tax break is “meaningful”.