Judge sparks debate after calling for extra tax breaks for long-standing marriages

A former judge has caused controversy after suggesting that married couples should be rewarded with “milestone” tax breaks for staying together.

Sir Paul Coleridge, founder of the Marriage Foundation think-tank, has called for the payments to be introduced as an effort to acknowledge that stable relationships “saved the taxpayer money.”

A divisive figure, he had previously left the judiciary amid controversy about his public stance in favour of marriage.

His latest comments were made during a debate jointly-organised by the foundation and the Sunday Times newspaper.

Although tax breaks for married couples are already due to be introduced in April, Sir Paul has argued that the proposals don’t go far enough.

“Why does the Government not support people by incentivising sticking it out?

“Increasing the tax allowance at five years, 10 years and so on would do two things – it would make clear staying together does not cost the state a penny while splitting up does and it would send a message to couples to stay together.”

Prime Minister David Cameron has previously argued that marriage should be recognised by the tax system as “it gives children stability and says powerful things about what we should value.”

But his own deputy, Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg, is among those who have voiced concern about the changes, making the case that the state should not attempt to interfere in private relationships.

“We should not take a particular version of the family institution, such as the 1950s model of suit-wearing, bread-winning dad and aproned, home-making mother – and try and preserve it in aspic,” Mr Clegg said previously.

“We can all agree that strong relationships between parents are important, but not agree that the state should use the tax system to encourage a particular family form.”