Dr Katherine Rake: The feminist who derides the nuclear familyBy Steve Doughty
1st December 2009
Feminist figurehead: Dr Katherine RakeKatherine Rake, who yesterday said the days of the 'typical family' are numbered, is a hard-line feminist brought in last summer to head the Family and Parenting Institute, the state-funded mouthpiece on family life.
Her appointment appeared to toughen the organisation's long standing mission to belittle marriage and denigrate the traditional two-parent family.
Crop-haired Dr Rake, 41, was for seven years the figurehead of the feminist pressure group, the Fawcett Society, where she declared her ambition was 'to transform the most intimate and private relations between women and men'.
A key figure in her appointment appears to have been the woman who has chaired the Family and Parenting Institute for five years: Fiona Millar, former aide to Cherie Blair and partner of Tony Blair's former spokesman Alastair Campbell.
Dr Rake is a grammar-school girl from Canterbury who became a notable academic before gravitating to feminist activism.
Her own family background suffered disruption. Her father divorced from her mother – the first of his three wives – when Katherine was 18, about the time she went up to the London School of Economics.
Dr Rake lectured in social studies at the LSE and in Paris before taking an advisory role at the Cabinet Office's Women's Unit in 1999. Since she took over as director of the Fawcett Society, it has become a prominent and persistent voice protesting over the pay gap between men and women.
When critics say the pay gap exists largely because women who have children usually slacken their career efforts to spend time looking after them, Dr Rake says men should take over the responsibility for raising children.
Last year she was awarded an OBE for services to equal opportunities. Despite her disapproval of state support for marriage and the traditional family, she lives in South London with her husband, a commercial manager on the Guardian newspaper, and four-year-old son.
The FPI has always been anxious to talk down the institution of marriage. Dr Rake is merely the latest and loudest broadcaster of a message which has been pumped out by the organisation for a decade.
The institute was launched by Home Secretary Jack Straw in 1999 with £2million of start-up money from the taxpayer. Its first action was to publish an opinion poll which asserted that only one in five people thought having married parents was important for children.
Its second was to host a speech by Mr Straw in which he told his audience 'don't panic' over the decay of marriage.
FPI regularly promotes themes beloved of the children's rights lobby: for example there have been reports calling for tight restrictions on prosecutions of any criminals under 16 and advising parents that they should never shout at their children.
As long ago as 2000 it responded favourably to the suggestion that the Government should abandon support for two-parent families and instead pump cash into childcare.
Its then chief Mary Macleod said it was 'time to find new ways of addressing the balance between work and family life'.
The organisation remains firmly in the grip of state funding and Labour thinking. It was given more than £1.4million by the taxpayer last year, mainly through Ed Balls's Department of Children, Schools and Families.
SHE CLAIMS TAX BREAKS DON'T WORK. HERE'S WHY SHE'S WRONG
by EDWARD HEATHCOAT AMORY
According to Katherine Rake, tax breaks do nothing to encourage the traditional family.
Yet the British tax system treats such a family – two parents, one earner, the other staying at home to look after the children – almost uniquely badly amongst advanced industrialised nations.
The U.S., France, Germany, Portugal, Switzerland, Ireland and others all allow married couples to share their personal income tax allowance.
Not so Britain. Australia, Austria, Canada, Japan and Spain offer other allowances or tax credits to help these oneearner families.
Not so Britain. We are in a small and a select group – including Turkey and Finland – who do nothing for traditional families.
As a result, the tax position of this group in British society has become much worse.
Today, a single Briton on average income is paying the same proportion of earnings in income tax as 40 years ago.
But a one-earner married couple with two children will have seen their income tax payments double as a proportion of their income over those four decades.
When Britain is compared with other advanced countries in the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, most of us pay similar proportions of our income in tax, allowing for different taxation systems.
But one group – once again, it is singleearner married couples with children on an average wage – pays 44 per cent more tax in Britain than the OECD average.
Looked at another way, most countries reduce the tax paid by families with children, so that on average across the OECD, a oneearner married couple with two children pays only 50 per cent of the income tax bill of a single person on the same wage.
In Britain, that proportion is 76 per cent and rising. In Britain, 2.3million children live in traditional one-earner two-parent families.
How strange that in this era of choice and the protection of minorities, our country is so determined to discriminate against a minority because they are making a choice – for one parent to stay at home and bring up the children – of which ministers apparently do not approve. Here are the contrasting positions around the world.
No joint or transferrable income tax allowance. No special allowance for one-earner, two-parent families. No other tax perks of any kind for married or cohabiting couples, except for the exemption from inheritance tax for transfers between spouses.
Tax allowances grow along with the size of the family. But only for couples who have either married or agreed a special French form of marriage-lite known as a 'pacte civil'. A couple of years ago it was calculated that a couple with two children on a combined income of £35,000 a year would be £720 a year better off as a result of their marriage.
The German constitution was designed to encourage middle class families with children. So the tax system allows couples to have their income assessed jointly, doubling their personal income tax allowance to £13,935. Married couples are also eligible for cheaper health insurance contributions, and other tax breaks.
Joint taxation for married couples, so that a one-earner couple would benefit from £7,087 personal allowance before starting to pay tax but a single taxpayer would have an allowance of only £3,562. Married couples also pay lower income tax rates. These advantages are not available to cohabiting couples.
Joint taxation for married couples, doubling the single person's tax allowance, from £4,736 to £9,472, and these figures increase with age. The system also allows couples to pool their allowances for the purpose of capital gains tax, and to inherit from the partner without paying inheritance tax. Most of these advantages have recently been extended to cohabiting couples.
Married couples – but not cohabitees – can choose joint taxation, with the result that they can double their personal income tax-free allowance from £4,682 to £9,365. There are also allowances for children, and for elderly relatives living with the family, but these are not dependent on marital status.
A sole earner in a two-parent family can claim an extra income tax allowance for his or her spouse – £8,727 a year. The same rights are available to cohabitees.
Single-earner families – whether two-parent or single-parent – can claim Family Tax Credit to boost their income, regardless of whether they are married or not.