Government spokesman Lord Macintosh has hinted the proposal is under consideration but warned there could be technical difficulties in ensuring that true partners only got the benefit.
He added that there could be cuts in the scale of the tax break, possibly reducing the £231,000 threshold .
The issue was raised in the House of Lords where Lord Macintosh said the government was committed to fairness in taxation and said the current inheritance tax laws ‘discriminate in favour of married couples and against unmarried couples whether of the same sex or homosexual .’
Openly gay peer and one of Prime Minister Tony Blair’s closest advisors, Lord Ali, raised the question of the plight faced by Takashi Suzuki following the death of his long term partner, the wealthy Lord Montague of Oxford.
He said that Takashi , who has been with Lord Montague for 35 years, said that in addition to the ‘grief and pain’ of losing his lover Takashi was ‘now being forced to sell the home in which they lived in order to pay inheritance tax’ He added: The testing of such cases of long lasting relationships cries out for the law to be changed.’
Lord Macintosh replied: ‘You do well to remind us of the specific case of our dear friend Lord Montague. Because the benefit inheritance tax affords to the surviving spouses has been so wide, historically the definition has been particularly narrow. You may well be right in thinking that a change has to take place.’
‘However, it may have to take place with respect to the generosity of relief as well as to the extent of availability.’
A Tory spokesman said: ‘It would be ridiculous and quite unfair to make married couples pay more inheritance tax to extend benefits to gay couples.
Ministers have indicated that the government is ready to extend the inheritance tax concessions for married couples to unmarried and gay partners.
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