By politics.co.uk staff
The Conservatives went head-to-head with the government on the topic of children and families today, with a pledge to introduce the married couples' tax break.
Timed to coincide with the green paper on families and relationships, where children's secretary Ed Balls pledged more support for fathers and clarified rights for grandparents, the Tories will push ahead with their plans for marriage to be recognised in the tax system.
Shadow Cabinet member with responsibility for family policy David Willetts said: "We can't go on ignoring the importance of strong families. They provide the stability, warmth and love we need to flourish as human beings, and the relationships they foster are the bedrock on which society is built.
"The families section of our draft manifesto outlines a comprehensive approach to encourage stability and tackle social breakdown - a new system of flexible parental leave which lets parents share maternity leave, more health visitors to support new parents, and encouraging commitment by recognising marriage in the tax system.
The green paper also outlines how the government will encourage separating parents to go through mediation and avoid potentially lengthy legal proceedings.
But while the Tories welcomed the new rights for grandparents, Mr Willetts was sceptical about the government plans.
"The government's green paper - their first on families since 1998 - fails to confront the big issues," he said.
"As a result it does not match the scale of change that is needed to support families and mend Britain's broken society."
David Cameron faced criticism when he appeared to flip-flop on the married couples tax break in the new year, but new suggestions from Iain Duncan Smith, the party's social justice champion, appear to have offered the Tories a more cost effective way of introducing the policy.
Today's comments from Mr Willetts that "recognising marriage in the tax system" will appear in the draft manifesto are the clearest sign yet that the party remains wedded to the policy.