Sex and the sisters

Baroness Deech

First, a welcome to the new peers announced yesterday.  Odd that the LibDems should be appointing any, given their stance that all peers should be elected.  And good luck to the new ones in finding a desk and a computer, room to sit down on the red benches, securing a place on a committee and getting their voices heard in the melee that question time sometimes turns into, now that there are so many peers who wish to participate.

My amendment to the Care Bill, (see my previous blog, Sisters sisters) which was intended primarily to give elderly siblings, who have lived together for years, the same inheritance tax deferral as married couples, got a frosty reception.  Baroness Northover put forward the government position that there is quite enough law supporting them already, and that most of those who fall into the inheritance tax bracket are “wealthy” and therefore deserve no additional sympathy.  However, another objection has been voiced repeatedly whenever I have tried, as I have done on several occasions, to draw attention to the inferior treatment of unmarried family members.  The argument against helping them goes like this: to give family members rights similar to those about to be enjoyed by same sex couples entering marriage, or which are already available to same sex couples who have entered a civil partnership, is to denigrate same sex couples.  Why? Because, they say, it denies the sexual element of same sex couples and puts them on a par with family members who are obviously not in a sexual relationship.  There is quite a bit of academic writing about this.  It alleges that most people are unable or unwilling to think about same sex couples as sexual partners in the way that we automatically regard heterosexual couples.  Hence the failure of the Marriage Act to make provision for adultery and consummation in same sex marriages in the same way as for heterosexual marriage.  Thus to talk about sisters in the same breath as same sex couples is to pretend that the latter are asexual.

This is not my perspective at all.  What I am arguing is that it is unfair to give a tax break to all couples in a sexual relationship that is not available to those who are not, and who cannot marry because they are related.  I have no difficulty in placing all civil partners and married couples in one category, but then ask why should those who are not in that category, yet who live together and will face the same grave housing difficulties when inheritance tax bites, not have the same tax treatment? I have always felt that in matters of inheritance and support, family members’ claims are at least as important, if not more so, than those of couples. Academic arguments should not stand in the way when there is a question of fairness and discrimination, a wrong to be righted.

9 comments for “Sex and the sisters

  1. timmy
    02/08/2013 at 12:17 pm

    I believe there is something called an “Inheritance (Cohabitants) Bill” which is currently making the rounds. What is this about and could you not incorporate something into this? I still, however, don’t understand how you intend to deal with groups of relatives/friends/carers living togethers where there are more than just two elderly sisters involved.

    Also do you not think that couples who are currently not married or in a CP yet who are co-habiting (ie those who believe they have rights under the concept of common law partners/wives etc) are a more serious issue than two elderly sisters living together and are you pushing for these people to have the same inheritance rights as married couples or CP partners.

    If not, then why?

    • Baroness Deech
      Baroness Deech
      02/08/2013 at 7:44 pm

      Cohabiting couples can marry and get the full set of rights; or they can make wills in favour of each other or contracts. I don’t think it is right to force marital obligations on them when they have chosen not to marry, being free to do so if they had wanted to.

  2. sfk
    02/08/2013 at 1:21 pm

    i hope you don’t give in on this issue. I think its a pretty good point. Tangential to this, I think you will find that without the tax break being extended, women/sisters under sharia inheritance agreements are doubly penalised.

  3. Lord Blagger
    02/08/2013 at 1:30 pm

    Still waiting for an answer.

    You said the change in the law costs nothing. How come you can get the sisters (no mention of the brothers so complete sex discrimination there), get more money at the end.

    Someone is paying.

    Back to the basic problem.

    You need the money to carry on running your Ponzi pension scam. How are you going to get your 2,700 a day cost paid when the state owes 6,500 bn just for the pensions with no assets?

    Ah yes, IHT.

    • Baroness Deech
      Baroness Deech
      02/08/2013 at 7:45 pm

      The surviving sister or brother’s estate would pay all the IHT when the survivor dies, so it is deferred, not removed.

  4. 02/08/2013 at 1:30 pm

    Doesn’t this boil down to an argument that inheritance tax is inherently unfair? The entire premise of the tax is that family members, other than a spouse, who inherit someone’s estate have to pay it. Spouses are exempt because all their assets are considered to be joint. We could ask, why should someone have to pay tax on assets that were acquired using income that was already taxed? Those who spend their lives saving and investing wisely are hit, whereas those who lived the high life, and maybe ended up receiving benefits from the state in old age, will have paid only the original income tax. It seems to me it would be fairer to scrap IHT and increase the higher bands of income tax to compensate, then the “sisters” problem would go away.

    • timmy
      02/08/2013 at 6:58 pm

      Agree…which comes down to the reason why only sisters, sisters , when there is a whole bunch of other people who are subject to IHT and a whole bunch of differing types of household and relative/friends/carers living together.

      It’s also no wonder people are suspicious of the motives of this amendment when elderly sisters are continuously put in the same category as same sex couples.

      The problem is much more complex than simply continually referring to 2 elderly sisters and the Baroness refuses to answer questions put to her.

    • Baroness Deech
      Baroness Deech
      02/08/2013 at 7:46 pm

      I agree. It is more trouble than it is worth, collects very little from relatively few people, and causes a great deal of aggravation.

  5. maude elwes
    07/08/2013 at 11:02 am

    @Baroness Deech:

    The last line in your opening thread, ‘Academic arguments should not stand in the way when there is a question of fairness and discrimination, or a wrong to be righted.’

    I love the line and it sounds as if that is definitely the moral way to go. However, the problem arises in ‘who’ is determining the moral right in any matter. So do you discriminate on the one hand in order to eliminate a fact of life then call it ‘positive discrimination? ie: We are not all born equal. Although that is flaunted regularly as factual. Then, it exacerbates the pretense that we are born equal. This is a spread of academic idiocy to a ridiculous level that we now see and call ‘political correctness.’ Which has become the cause of many wrongs that are in no way ‘fair.’ Or come to that in the best interests of the people.

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