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"Many Tories - like Tim Yeo - will not like this message"

That's hardly a surprise, given Yeo's track record, although I do have to say I hope this support for marriage doesn't turn into another war on single parents.

You touch on an interesting point, Daniel. It could well be that the hostility towards the institution of marriage which many policy-makers hold is related to their own failings in that area.

Agree that its important that supporting marriage doesn't mean attacking co-habiting couples or single parents. But policy should be just that - supportive - we should reward marriage. That does mean married couples should have an economic advantage but better a few tax perks than Foetal ASBO's.

At the moment the system rewards people for not forming stable relationships - that is absurd.
Yes, we need to reward marriage and try and encourage the model which (usually) works best for children.

There's a danger of saying that marriages are the cure-all to the ills of poverty. Do I believe that an environment where you have a father and mother who are husband and wife, and who love each other, is the best environment to raise kids? Absolutely. However, there are plenty of bad marriages out there, and these present a terrible environment to raise kids. A marriage that leads to acrimonious break-up and divorce, messy court-cases and so on. These should be avoided as well.

So we need to make sure that we don't just say that marriage will automatically make things good for two people and their kids. It doesn't. Additionally, I hate the idea that we may incentivise marriage and encourage two people to get married for financial benefit. That's not going to get at the root cause of this problem. Marriage is not something to be undertaken lightly.

The problem itself is long-standing. It's to do with the lack of safe-sex outside of marriage. It's to do with the weakening of the institution itself through the weakening of divorce laws. It's so easy to get out of a marriage these days. What, ultimately, is the difference between cohabiting and marriage? It's like there's nothing at stake with marriage anymore. A marriage SHOULD be something that's difficult to get out of. And precisely because of that, it is something that two people need to think very strongly about before they go into it.

So yes, there is a case for marriage, but with a number of caveats. Marriage for the sake of marriage is very bad. Marriage because you've had a child outside of wedlock and have to raise that child together because you can't afford to do it any other way isn't really ideal either. Marriage because you love each other and want to spend the rest of your lives with each other is very good and preferable. We need to acknowledge that bad marriages can be just as serious a problem as no marriage, and figure out how to deal with that problem, if government can deal with that problem.

Daniel, no-one is asking anyone to wage war on single parents. I am a single parent and have been through a divorce. I know all about how wretched and painful the whole business is....and at least I haven't yet experienced what for most people is the main impact of divorce: severe financial hardship.

Many single parents work wonders but I don't think you will find many single parents who would positively recommend single parenthood as a lifestyle choice. That is all that IDS is saying. Any support for marriage will be meaningless unless and until the demented decisions of the appeal courts in matrimonial cases are overturned. At present, deceit and greed are being richly rewarded by the judiciary, some of whom (notably Lady Brenda Hale) have a well-documented track record of hostility towards the institution of marriage.

I agree with Kristian at 11.01 that we need to be careful to make it clear that we are not in favour of marriages that are, for example, abusive. The Bush administration helpfully talks of supporting "Healthy marriages".

I also agree with Kristian at 1101, and I like the line 'Healthy marriages' but I'm quite sure it would be derided in the British press because it came from the Bush administration! However there is nothing wrong in saying that children do better when brought up in a stable relationship where two people love each other, like marriage. This then links marriage, stable, and love all together in one easy soundbite.

Does anyone really think a tax break will encourage people to get married or stay married ? and if so won't they be married for the wrong reason and not adding to the stability of the relationship at all. Do we want children born to parents who are just married due to tax breaks ?

Will: if you want some insight into the role that the tax and benefits system can play in encouraging marriage/ couples to live together please take a look at this from The Guardian.

It is, of course, important that tax isn't the only ingredient of our family policy. Support for relationship counselling and more family-friendly social housing allocation policies would all be useful.

If there are some ingredients of Tory family policy that are clearly pro-marriage it would be good to have some other policies that will benefit all families. Family policy cannot be narrow but must include lots of policy ideas.

It is always heartening to read something with which you agree.

I think we need to be very careful when we talk about 'rewarding' marriage. What, exactly, do we plan to reward them with? We need to bear in mind that the reward of a good marriage is exactly, well, that. Not that I'm married or anything, but surely the main benefit and the main joy of a good marriage is that you're spending your life with someone that you love, and someone who loves you, and that you're sharing life together, and so on and so forth, and that you are HAPPY. A reward of marriage shouldn't be financial gain. It is not a capitalistic institution and shouldn't be treated as such.

I should make it clear that I am very sceptical of giving single parents financial benefits or assistance as well. We need to do all we reasonably can to discourage having children when you don't have the financial wherewithall to support that child. Only in the case where a mother has been impregnated through rape do I see a reasonable argument for helping a single parent out substantially. In other situations, as hard as it is, the government cannot be responsible for the support and raising of children who have been created irresponsibly. It's difficult enough for a government to run a universal healthcare system and the state school system, without having to help single parents out. This is the kind of thing I'd like to see Cameron's 'Responsibility Revolution' address. In the case where one parent has been abandoned by the other, well we need to do all we can to ensure that the negligent parent and spouse is punished for that and provides for the maintenance of the other parent and the child. If you have a child, you have got to be able to provide for that child. That's the way it is, and I don't see why government should bail out parents who make these decisions recklessly and irresponsibly.

Fundamentally, I believe that if you voluntarily have kids then you are responsible for them. Not the taxpayer, but you. If you don't take the proper precautions when you have sex, and have an 'accident', then you are responsible for what follows. Not the taxpayer, not the government. If you have a child when you don't have the money to support the increased burden on your family, then that is incredibly irresponsible and reckless, and it should be up to you to rectify that situation. Only if you've been forced into it through rape or something like that, then do I think the government should step in.

I do completely understand the sentiment that we want to do all we can to help happily married couples raise their kids. However, we need to think about what the consequences of this assistance would be, and whether or not it is really strengthening the institution of marriage, which I do agree has been seriously undermined.

David Cameron has made these same points on a few occasions - I doubt Tim Yeo is going to object too strongly!

Pleas don't give us american "healthy marriages" what's wrong with the good old British "happy marriages"

At the moment society doesn't reward marriage, Kristian, we penalise it.

Good for IDS.

Just because the PC brigade hate the concept of happy marriages, doesn't stop it from being true that a happy marriage is the best guarantee of happy and successful children.

Nobody is seriously disputing this are they?

I am painfully aware that you are not supposed to say "success" any more, it's called "positive outcomes" nowadays...

Editor - I do agree, and I want to see us reverse that process. The tax credits system is dreadful. But if we are talking about solving poverty, then I don't think financial incentives or anything like that will do the job. These are band-aid solutions (much like school vouchers are in education) that may be helpful in the short term, but do nothing to get at the root cause of the problem. The root cause, I believe, is that more and more people simply refuse to take responsibility for their own actions, and seek to have someone else (the government) bail them out and tell them 'it's ok, we'll fix it.'

We need to do more to educate people about the consequences of having children, and of getting married. These aren't things to be undertaken lightly. They joys and benefits of marriage and having kids should be talked about, but they should be tempered by the knowledge that you have to make sacrifices, and if you don't make those sacrifices, then I don't see how you can expect the government or the taxpayer to pick up that mess. They are life-changing experiences. The way you conduct your life must change when you have a child, but sometimes it seems as though a not insignificant number of parents realise this.

So yeah, sorry for the rambling rants but I just don't like the rather blase way we seem to talk about marriage as the cure-all. It can be, but the culture and perceptions surrounding that institution need to change, and that's what we need to talk about. If there's one word that I think we should emphasise, it is 'responsibility'. People need to be made very clear about what their responsibilities are as parents and husbands and wives. Now, a lot of people know what they are of course, but not everyone does, and that's where the problem lies.

... and here was I thinking that people get married because they are in love. How stupid of me.

Money should not come into it at all. There should be no differential in tax whether you are married or not. End of story.

I'm not particularly anti or pro marriage - I have seen marriages that have lasted 50 years and seen friends divorce after 3. I just think you should marry someone if you want to spend the rest of your life with that person - maybe that makes me some old romantic (and maybe I am) but I don't think the choices you make about marriage should be based on your tax code or your social background, your religion, parental pressure or anything else.

They are reasons why marriages often fail.

I hope this means we recognise the value of marriage for all types of relationship e.g. same sex marriage as well as between more traditional forms.

If family breakdown is really costing £28 billion a year then the government would be negligent if it didn't at least look into that and see if there was anything which it could and should do. But surely the first step should be to distinguish between relationships between adults where there may be mutual responsibility but there's no responsibility for children, and relationships where there's also responsibility for children. As children do not ask to be born and cannot choose their parents, but as we also want children to be born to provide a new generation and a future for the nation, and as we should aim to realise their potential to the maximum extent, the government should be particularly concerned with the second kind of relationship. That's not to say that childless marriages and civil partnerships have no communal value, because clearly they can contribute to social stability, but the main focus should be on the family environment in which children are raised.

My own view, old fashioned some would say, is that as a general rule it should still be considered a misfortune for a child to be brought up by only one parent.

Not always, of course, but as a general rule, and as a much better rule than the opposite which has been promulgated over recent decades.

Well done IDS! I'm really pleased that such considerable work has been done on this issue. For some time the link between lack of paternal involvement in a child's upbringing and truancy/criminal behaviour/poor educational attainment has been acknowledged. With heavyweight backing from the social justice group, it will be tackled in a thoughtful way.

I don't think that tax breaks for married couples are the way to go - I can't imagine staying in an unhappy marriage for financial reasons - but that's just me! I would be interested to know if there is any substantive research into whether married tax allowances had any effect on levels of divorce.

That said, I am really glad a heavyweight politician is discussing this issue.

Rather convoluted thread - thankfully IDS made a clear and simple exposition. Kristian Shanks seems particularly exercised by this in the most pusillanimous fashion.

The tax and benefits system discriminates against married couples with children, it has done so for years. It provides so much additional support for single (female) parents if they know how to claim that it makes the taxpayer a parent.

Why every time this issue is raised terms like "abuse", "Bad marriages" etc are bandied about makes me wonder what kind of household the writers grew up in. There are lots of abused unmarried women flitting from relationship to relationship picking up offspring to be supported by Father State. Why these are not mentioned I know not.

It is probably best in this society to be feckless and irresponsible, after all the system is set up and focuses on such rather than seeing stable families as a desirable norm. In fact why shouldn't people act in a totally selfish fashion since the rich uncle in the form of Father State will pay for everything ?

Politics in Great Britain treats marital breakdown as the norm, in fact media and politics seems to favour it as the norm. I recall meeting a 24-year old girl in the US who had three marriages behind her - and yet it seems here to be held up as a desirable role model............but then again State funding is available here to subsidise it all.

So noone expects anything much from politicians, it would be nice if they did not bully and demean stable families quite so much, but unlikely. politicians prefer to punch and kick those not inclined to retaliate, so it is likely that society will continue to disintegrate whichever party gets elected.

I don't see how any of what i said was 'pusillanimous' (I had to look that word up, you'll be pleased to know), but I'd be delighted if you could inform me.

Even if the amounts involved are rather nominal and wouldn't have a significant direct effect on people's decisions, at least it's better for the state to positively reward stable relationships, but most especially those with children, rather than adopt a studiously neutral position or even worse put out negative messages.

and here was I thinking that people get married because they are in love. How stupid of me.

Do people really think that no one ever looks at the cost benefit analysis of marriage and chooses not to? For people on low incomes, marriage makes the financial burdens greater.

Its not very romantic, but I am sure that the very fact of having made a public commitment increases the chance that a couple will try to succeed.

Excellent news. This is exactly the kind of thing we want to hear.

The Conservative Party has always supported marriage and the family and we should continue to do so no matter what the likes of Tim Yeo and the rest of the 'amateur swordsman' crew think.

I also think there has been an unfortunate distortion of the views of most Conservatives on "single parents". All of us would take off our hats to widowed and divorced parents like Michael McGowan.

It's the irresponsible teenaged single mothers who need to be condemned, and often that condemnation should be extended to their parents as well.

Three long posts Kristian for a very simple issue. It is either preferable as a society that children are raised in intact and stable families or it is not. Empirically it is now stated that what the majority of people believed, is in fact accurate.

Marriage was created for children, it is stated categorically in The Marriage Service (BCP) that it was firstly for children, secondly for fornication.

Either this is something you believe in or you do not.

Divorce has changed Western society; England has a very very high divorce rate and including Scotland and N Ireland brings the UK level down considerably.

Marriage at 18, divorce at 27 is not unusual but probably unfortunate, since cohabitation may follow with even less security. People stumble through life especially if their own family was divorced.........it is a cycle of deprivation.

The aim of a society should be stability in general, because if the overall structure becomes unstable, it is hard to know why anyone should have anything in common with anyone else and society atomises.

These were once simple Conservative beliefs now apparently only to be whispered. This has nothing to do with one-parent families - Churchill's parents were adulterers both, his father had syphilis; his son was a disaster - but he had a family. Macmillan's wife had an affair with the bisexual Bob Boothby...............but let us believe these were aberrations and not the norm.

"teenaged single mothers who need to be condemned..."

Good Lord! Perhaps compulsory sterilisation for unmarried mothers too. How utterly ridiculous.

How about condemning the boys who get girls pregnant and don't hang around to face the consequences.

Although any sort of condemnation is deeply unhelpful and solves nothing, just drives a divide between sections of society.

I think being neutral would be a good position for a Conservative government. At the moment it is financially rewarding to put off marriage, or to not even consider it.

All things being equal, I think a great many people would wish to bind their love in marriage (be it heterosexual or otherwise).

I think IDS makes a very important point here. Marriage is good for children, and should be encouraged. There is no need to penalise couples for choosing to marry. I think most voters would be in full agreement.

Actually I recall the mid-1980's as the turning point when many young couples began to openly announce that they would be co-habiting but not getting married.

The traditional stigma of co-habitation - "living in sin" - had greatly diminished by then, but what really pushed them in that direction was the prospect of double mortgage tax relief on their house. By the time the government realised what was going on, it was too late - it had become respectable, more or less the norm, and accepted even by more traditionally minded parents as financially sensible.

When Lawson announced in the spring of 1988 that he was changing the system so that for new mortgages the £30,000 allowance would be per house, not per person, but not until August 1st, he provoked a boom in house sales during that summer, followed by a crash. But I think he also effectively locked many of those young couples out of marriage because if they subsequently got married they would lose one of the allowances.

The aim of a society should be stability in general, because if the overall structure becomes unstable, it is hard to know why anyone should have anything in common with anyone else and society atomises

Absolutely right TomTom. Without traditional institutions such as marriage society ceases to be society at all.

To the lady who asked whether I would condemn the male input with regard to what used to be called "gymslip mothers" the answer is that I most certainly would.

If the girls in question are under 16 these males are criminals. They should be punished for their actions and placed on the sex offenders register.

That would give them something to think about.

Get the government out of marriage full stop. Leave it to the churches.

Marriage is necessary to provide a proper - and legal - framework for the raising of children. Throughout history all civilised societies, Christian, Jewish, Muslim and Pagan, have subscribed to that principle.

Revolutionaries have frequently attempted to undermine and destroy the institution of marriage. We see this after 1789, 1917, whenever violence has been used to disrupt and destroy the established order.

Conservatives are the friends of tradition and order, and therefore the friends of marriage and the family. We need no truck with the anarchy of the left.

Furthermore, in my opinion, the closer that Conservatism is associated with Christianity, the better.

Freddie @ 16:57 Get the government out of marriage full stop.

Couldn't agree more.

Mike @ 17:12

Just because I don't think tax incentives are anything to do with marriage, this does not make me anti-marriage.

Conservatism and Christianity??! What about everyone involved in the party who is not a christian. Do you mean 'christian values' or 'born again christians' or what?And even if you are a 'christian', that doesn't necessarily mean you want to wear your religious badge on your sleeve.

Editor at 11.32. Thanks for the link. The incentive for single mothers to move in their partner has been reduced by the tax changes. I think this is right, but I doubt the 50,000 new couples claim. Many were couples before, but there is now less money to lose if they 'officially' live together.

We need to address those young women who decide as ' a career choice ' to become a single mum. Get pregnant, get a council house, get benefit. By not talking about such an issue we do a disservice to the mothers and their children.

We need to address those young women who decide as ' a career choice ' to become a single mum. Get pregnant, get a council house, get benefit. By not talking about such an issue we do a disservice to the mothers and their children.

Will you took the words right out of my mouth.

Why are some people in our party now so reluctant to discuss this type of delinquent behaviour?

"Get pregnant, get a council house, get benefit." - and then sublet part of it without informing the council. One of my nieces had been doing that, I heard some time after she was caught out. But nothing much happened to her.

Get the government out of marriage full stop. Leave it to the churches.

So you want to stop all civil weddings ? Interesting.....will you eradicate civil partnerships too ?

So the Govt should leave "marriage" to the churchgoers and everyone else should just cohabit ?

What an interesting idea for the Conservative Party to advance...........I can see Labour looking more and more "conservative" by the minute

I agree that marriage is a positive social institution that promotes lots of good things in society. (as an aside it should thus clearly be open to gay couples). My question is about what tools does the government really have to promote marriage? Removing financial penalties that make cohabitation pay is a start, as might be some tax relief for married couples. This will only have a limited impact. What else can be done? Attacking those who choose to live their lives differently should not be an option.

All we need to do here is to reintroduce financial incentives to promote traditional marriage and to remove any incentives which encourage other, and less desirable forms of cohabitation.

The main object of the exercise is to encourage a more stable environment for the upbringing of children. There is no need, therefore, to promote similar arrangements for homosexuals.

I have no quarrel with legislation that facilitates financial and other arrangements between homosexual couples, but the arrangement must not be treated as a "marriage".

When did the tory party become the established church in this country? I missed it.

Let's leave preaching to preachers shall we? Already on this thread someone has invited us 'to condemn' single mothers. It always amuses me that we want the state out of every aspect of people's lives, save for their own bedrooms.

the fact is the current state both direcly through taxes and benefit and because govt picks up so much of what marriage used to provide does a lot to cause family break up-whcih is why families.

moreover divorce law has become a joke- harder to get out of a marriage than a mortgage. marriage needs to become more of a contract (we're well away from sacramant status) and less of a joke.

For those on this thread who have made libertarain or semi-libertarain arguments the facti s marriage protects both children(for which the evidence is overwhelming) and those part of a couple who don't work and no one in the Uk- at least not legally , is forced into it. The case for abolishing nearly all the rest of government apart from the police and the army is much stronger. This is particulalry true when as i've pointed out , the effect of other government actions is to weaken marriage and the family. When you've ablished them (eg state funded healthcare!) then go after marriage.

Obviously it's stupid for politicans to make attacks on groups (save criminals) and preach personal morality-that does not mean the conservative party should do nothing about these issues. Any more than not hating French people means we shoudln't be eurosceptic.

Gareth, as far as I can tell, the current leadership of the Conservative Party does little else but preach.....The precise articles of dogma may have changed but the holier-than-thou-I-know-better-than-you-how-you-should-lead-your-life mindset (typified of course by Tony Blair) is very much alive and well. Probably a reflection of the fact that most middle class social liberals in this country are the spiritual descendants of the Puritans. Contrast a country like France where the middle classes are much less inclined to impose a dictatorship of virtue on everyone else.

The thing we need to concentrate on is try to stop young girls getting pregnant so young. I think its nothing short of tragic that young girls rather than go out and get themselves a career find themselves pregnant at sixteen or seventen with nothing to look forward to then twenty years of baby`s, children and housework.
Its about time schools startd to inspire girls to aim for more and want to make something of themselves before they embark on motherhod.

Mr MacGowan I agree with you mostly - I think you're a bit unfair to the puritans who were much less commited to impsosing morality than the current governmetn and those in the party who wish to copy their immoral moralization.

On Mr Stones point I would say that I think it's too easy sometimes to blame schoosl. I would point out that the children who do this tend very disporotialy from broken and non-existant homes themselves.also the current government has had a constistant stratergy of reducing teenage pregnancy by distributing contraceptives and abortificians, refusing to give any importance to marriage, attaking parental responsabiltiy ect-all lin the name of reducing teenage pregnancy. This has predictably gone with a soarinag rate of teenage pregnancy.

Also it's worth noting the teenage(as opposed to under 16) rate of teenage pregnancy was simialr in the 50's but it did not cause the same probelms-because the births were overwhelmingly in marriage.

indeed the weflare costs of the decine of marriage are huge ( related to the editors and David Willets points about the "demand for government") do all those who've posted on this thread with denouciations of any attempt tot stand up for marriage oppose the government paying any of the indirect costs with equal fervour. Ie hgiher welfare costs, higher education costs , special offender institions, health care costs ect?

<<...let's leave preaching to the preachers>>

One has an absolute right to preach when the people we are 'preaching' to appear think it is their right to live off our taxes.

I am totally tired with having to support feckless people (unmarried mothers, housing association tenants - rent subsidised by the tax payer - unemployed who could work etc) without having a say in the matter. And even more tired that no political party represents this view. Where is the Conservative party? What happened to opposition?

I agree that this government (most governments) does little other than preach, and aim to regulate our lives - all for our own good of course.

But in this case, as others have pointed out, the problems caused by children lacking the stable home life which marriage produces are ones the rest of us have to pay for.

So, if someone expects a blank cheque from me, I think I'm entitled to preach at them.

I want to give publicity about my Christ's work and social serv ice activvities with photoes and vedeos. But I can not pay amount and wants some donations to my work of poor children.
If you help me?

Please remember that actually getting married is expensive and no, I'm not referring to the unnecessary broohaha of overpriced wedding dresses etc. The actual cost of the ceremony put off my partner and I when we were considering getting married. At the time we were unemployed and just could not afford it. Of course we are now gainfully employed (let no-one think signing on is a doddle or fun in any way: we just wanted to get back into work having been made redundant).
In the years since then it's just slipped our minds and our now teenage son doesn't mind either. In some ways it is a good thing as our eventual split will also be free from financial strain.
Eventual split? Yes. It is regrettable that my partner has been having a long term affair with a married but childless Conservative female district councillor in the east midlands. They are both to blame for this deplorable state of affairs but none of it goes well with David Cameron et al saying how wonderful marriage is.
It seems its perfectly meaningless whether you are married or not. Anyone deciding to look for someone else outside an allegedly stable relationship is punishing that stable relationship. Please understand my anger and pain at having our family put at risk by the actions of people who should know better.


I really feel that we should be active in our support of married. Those who say it is too expensive are wrong, my Husband and I married at the height of the 80's recession and we were unemployed at the time. Of course we had to do it in a registry office (and later had it blessed in a free church) but we knew that was an important step and we "got on our bikes". It wasn't a stylish affair perhaps. To be honest we had a quick bite at a pub, and only a very few people came. I have never regretted doing it that way. We saved a lot of money (frankly we didn't have a lot on money). Of course we could have rented two flats and got as much out of the state as possible, but we wanted to do the right thing then as now. The state should not be shy about rewarded the moral choices and should not in my opinion be scared to say

The State should not be shy about rewarding the moral choices and should not in my opinion be scared to say so.

(darn it...what a mess above ^^last post)

I only drank a cherry b as well.

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