Quick guide to the General Election for family lawyers

Quick guide to the General Election for family lawyers

The General Election of 2015 looks like being the tightest race in a generation and a coalition of some form is the most likely outcome after 7 May 2015. The growth in support of smaller parties, from nationalists to those with single-policy agenda, could spell an end to single party government for the foreseeable future and so the compatibility of policies and pledges will be a key element in creating the right atmosphere for successful government. To better understand what the parties offer and how they might work together in future, here's a guide to future policy impacting on family law.

Conservatives

The Conservatives plan to ensure that all people who work 30 hours  per week on the minimum wage will not pay income tax, as well as doubling the  free childcare allowance for three and four-year-olds to 30  hours. Their manifesto also includes:

  • increasing the inheritance tax threshold on family homes  to £1m by 2017
  • no rise in VAT, national insurance contributions or income  tax
  • taking everyone who earns less than £12,500 out of income  tax
  • passing a new law that would mean all those working 30  hours a week and earning the minimum wage will not pay income tax  on earnings
  • raising the threshold for the 40p rate of tax so that  nobody under £50,000 pays the rate
  • introducing a freeze on working age benefits for two years  from April 2016 (exemptions for disability and pensioner  benefits)
  • lowering the benefit cap from £26,000 to £23,000 (with  exemptions for those receiving Disability Living Allowance or the  Personal Independence Payment)
  • giving working parents of three and four-year-olds 30  hours of free childcare a week
  • scrapping the Human Rights Act 1998, and introduce a British Bill  of Rights
  • increasing the inheritance tax threshold for married  couples and civil partners to £1m
  • continuing to increase the state pension through the  triple lock system, meaning it rises by at least 2.5%
  • introducing a single-tier pension

Labour

Labour plans to raise the minimum wage to more than £8 by  October 2019, and protect tax credits for working families so  they rise with inflation. Labour also plans to:

  • introduce a new National Primary Childcare Service,  guaranteeing childcare from 08:00 to 18:00
  • freeze the basic or higher rates of income tax, National  Insurance or VAT
  • repeal restrictions on judicial review
  • review the domestic violence legal aid eligibility test
  • reintroduce the 50p top income tax rate for those earning  over £150,000
  • end the non-dom rule that allows some wealthy UK residents  to limit the tax they pay on earnings outside the country
  • extend free childcare from 15 to 25 hours for working  parents of three and four-year-olds
  • ensure all primary schools guarantee access to childcare  from 08:00 to 18:00
  • scrap housing benefit changes that penalise those with  spare rooms (also known as the bedroom tax)
  • end the marriage tax allowance

Liberal Democrats

The Liberal Democrats aim to extend free childcare to all  two-year-olds and parents near end of parental leave, providing  15 hours a week of free childcare to the parents of all two-year  olds and aiming to increase this to 20 hours. The party says it  also wants to introduce 15 hours free childcare, for all working  parents with children aged between nine months and two years. It  also intends to:

  • raise the personal allowance to at least £12,500 by the  end of the next Parliament
  • remove a number of distortions, loopholes and excess  reliefs from the tax system
  • complete the introduction of Universal Credit
  • retain the cap on household benefits
  • introduce a 1% cap on the uprating of working age  benefits
  • give legal rights and obligations to cohabiting couples in  the event of relationship breakdown or one partner dying without  a will
  • promote international recognition of same-sex marriages  and civil partnerships as part of a comprehensive International  LGBT Rights Strategy that supports the cause of decriminalizing  homosexuality in other countries
  • protect the Human Rights Act 1998 and enshrine the UN  Convention on the Rights of the Child in UK law with appropriate  action to comply with decisions of UK courts and the European  Court of Human Rights
  • carry out an immediate review of civil legal aid, judicial  review and court fees, in consultation with the judiciary, to  ensure legal aid is available to all those who need it, that  those of modest means can bring applications for judicial review  of allegedly unlawful government action and that court and  tribunal fees will not put justice beyond the reach of those who  seek it, reversing any recent rises in up-front court fees that  make justice unaffordable for many, and instead spreading the fee  burden more fairly
  • encourage the widespread use of mediation for separating  couples, while protecting access to the family courts where  necessary

Greens

The Green Party has stated that it intends to reverse the legal aid cuts,  and keep the Human Rights Act 1998 to 'retain the principle that  human rights are the common property of the whole world'.

UKIP

UKIP has said it will reinstate the primary purpose rule for  bringing foreign spouses and children to the UK. In addition,  UKIP has pledged to ensure there is an initial presumption of 50/50  shared parenting in child custody matters and that grandparents will  be given visitation rights

See here for the Scottish National Party General Election manifesto and here for the Plaid Cymru manifesto.

This News Analysis was first published in LexisPSL Family. Click here for a free one week trial.

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About the author:

Geraldine is Head of LexisPSL Family. She was admitted as a solicitor in 1992 and was in practice for 15 years, most recently as a partner and head of the family team at Hart Brown, a large Surrey firm.

Geraldine writes for Butterworths Family Law Service and is a past editor of the Resolution Review. She has been published in the New Law Journal, the Law Society Gazette and the District Judges’ Bulletin as well as in the national press including the Times and the Telegraph.

When in practice she was a member of the Law Society Family and Children Panels, and an accredited Resolution Specialist with a focus on advanced financial provision and pensions. A past Resolution regional secretary and press officer, Geraldine also contributed chapters to the Resolution publications, International Aspects of Family Law (3rd Edition 2009) and The Modern Family (2012).