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"Today's debate should be about the hefty penalties that fall on the shoulders of married couples." It should also be about the swinging confiscation orders imposed on divorcing couples by the senior judiciary, without any democratic debate - often a much bigger disincentive to marriage than the tax and benefits system.

I don't think Cameron would be impressed by that argument, given that he's already nailed his colours to the feminist mast. It's men who are responsible
for society's ills, and that's the end of the story as far as he's concerned.

If "incentives" don't work in family policy then how come post-war socialism has suceeded so well in destroying the family unit?

Without "harking back to a golden age that never existed": there was a time when families up and down the income scale were strong and sucessful. There must be a way to rebuild the foundations and if tax breaks help a tiny number of families stay together then they have to be worth trying.

I agree with Michael McGowan, the single biggest disincentive to marriage during the last thirty years has been the divorce laws.
The percentage of people getting married has steadily declined since the divorce reform act was brought in during the early seventies.
It is only logical that a promise that can be broken within months of it being made is no promise at all and when the financial implications of that breakdown can be life shattering for one or both parties, is it any suprise that many shy away from it.

As was observed on Question Time, this policy is unravelling in front of our eyes. It seems that the public has no more appetite today for sanctimonious preaching than it had 15 years ago.

There is appetite for it...

If there was a better politician on QT, I'm sure the people would be on our side.

"the current tax system is unfair to married couples"
Just been watching Question Time and seeing Francis Maude discussing tax breaks for married couples. Instead of making this point and combining it with the real problem that people are actively not getting married because financially they would be worse off, he talked solely about sending a message!!!!
I really despair sometimes at the way every piece of research about children points to the benefits of the security that having both parents married gets dismissed or ignored. Christina Odone was jeered for even daring to make the point, and others wondered why they needed that piece of paper. I wonder why we wait until kids are facing the police and causing misery before we dole out a piece of paper called an ASBO, why do they need that badge of honour to tell the community that the government is finally doing something when it is almost too late.
I have a couple of friends who are single parents because of circumstances rather than choice and they do a fantastic job, they both have an amazing network of family and friends for help and support, but both worry that having to work full time and having NO support, financial or otherwise from their absent partners effects their children.
But equally I have married friends some of whom are on low incomes and who despair at the current inequality, they feel almost penalised for getting married under this government.

"If there was a better politician on QT"

That's unfair. You want Maude to have made more of the statistically better outcomes for children from married - but he couldn't make that argument because our tax break is aimed specifically at marriage and not children.

There is always a problem whenever politicians hit upon an issue that has both moral and financial implications. In these circumstances the politicians are entitled to talk about the practical and financial implications for society of a particular policy. At the same time they are entitled to leave moral comments to the churches or voluntary sector or anyone else who wants to comment. Thus if the breakdown of the traditional married couple has adverse impacts for society in terms of more lawlessness, poverty, etc, they are entitled to pursue a policy to strengthen traditional marriage, solely because economically it is best for society. They should at the same time be entitled to say that they are doing what works for society regardless of the moral issues involved. The churches/nonbelievers/whoever can then bring in their particular moral take, but the government has to focus on the actual impact on society of a policy, regardless of whether it offends single parents or whoever.

Terry, I agree. If there's an argument for tax breaks it's that children from married families statitically cost the state less, so married families can have a bit of a refund on their tax. That argument is, of course, totally unacceptable in the real world.

I have to say I thought Francis Maude was worse than useless on Question Time tonight, particularly on this issue.

While I don't necessarily agree with those who feel that non-married taxpayers should subsidise married couples and thereby be made to feel like second-class citizens in the process, I thought Francis Maude did a dreadful job defending the party line (certainly in comparison to the journalist Christina Odone next to him) which wouldn't have helped mitigate the negative stereotypes of the Conservatives being reinforced by those pushing this agenda.

I think the reality is that single parents and their children face an uphill struggle. It's a bit like having a dice with 1-1-1-2-3-3 on it, as opposed to the 1-2-3-4-5-6; by and large, over time, the ones with the second dice will always win, even though on occasions those with the first one do sometimes. It shouldn't be offensive to point this out; Alan Johnson wants to make both dices equal or pretend they're equal, and you can't solve the problem unless first of all you acknowledge it.

"While I don't necessarily agree with those who feel that non-married taxpayers should subsidise married couples and thereby be made to feel like second-class citizens in the process"
Graham, the problem is that I think married couples are at the moment being penalised for being married, I got married in 1990 and I have watched this government erode every financial incentive to getting married to the point where it is an active disincentive.
Listening to that smug perma tanned and patronising twat Hain made me angry.
A few years ago I stayed in hospital with one of my children and got chatting to another parent. They were living with their present partner who had given up work because they had realised that not only was it financial suicide for them to get married but also they were better off if he was not working at all.
So really in effect someone might not like subsiding married couples but they are doing just that to people who don't, but still choose to have children. And the statistics point to the fact that people who don't marry are even more likely to break up and that ends up costing the state far more financial never mind the emotional cost to all involved.

Sorry, that should have been Daniel's post I addressed.

"this policy is unravelling in front of our eyes. It seems that the public has no more appetite today for sanctimonious preaching than it had 15 years ago." (Valedictoryan 23:32)

No it is not unravelling. On the contrary. Our lead over Labour shot up from roughly 5 points to roughly 10 points in opinion polls after David Cameron's comments (in response to the teenage shootings) on marriage and the role of fathers, while in another poll, twice the percentage of people accepted his explanation of family breakdown etc for the shootings than Mr Blair's denial of the extent of the problem. In speaking about marriage and the need for fathers as an answer to our "broken society", Mr Cameron does seem to have struck a chord, however much the metropolitan lib/lefties and the BBC may dislike it.

Terry pointed out at 2344 that if the breakdown of traditional marriage has adverse impacts for society in terms of more lawlessness, poverty, etc, politicians are entitled to pursue a policy to strengthen traditional marriage. I think it is solely because of what is best for society as proved by objective stats on outcomes for children, rather than “sanctimonious preaching” or religion, that lead David Cameron and IDS to support traditional marriage.

Maude got a horrible kicking on QT over this. It was a horrible reminder of past times. And it was not really his frailties as a politician - it is just that the whole argument has not been thought through at the highest level. Just awful.

It should also be about the swingeing confiscation orders imposed on divorcing couples by the senior judiciary, without any democratic debate - often a much bigger disincentive to marriage than the tax and benefits system

At different ends of the spectrum Michael. For those with assets and good incomes the failure to update the 1973 Divorce Act has left activist judges to indulge their prejudices as case law.

For those with nothing living hand-to-mouth the Benefits system imposes excessively high marginal rates of tax and distorts family relationships just as the household means-test did in the 1930s.

The problem is that politicians operate by robbing Peter to pay Paul, and have built up accumulated distortions through ad hoc agendas.

Politcians have sought to colonise family life - if the old Barclays TV ad showed a bank manager living below the stairs; in this era it is a Social Worker watching your every move.

We are moving into the Communist approach that children belong to The Young Pioneers and other political groupings to be inculcated as the State desires and that requires that they be taught all relationships are temporary....except with The State

are entitled to pursue a policy to strengthen traditional marriage

I prefer to think they now wish to remove the boulders they have placed in the way of those who wish to live in a traditional manner, and undo the lunacies of their policy decisions which have had perverse outcomes

I would very much agree with those who believe there is little wrong with our ideas on marriage but that Francis Maude's defence of it on Question Time last night was utterly inept.
Surely it should not be beyond the wit of man to have simply stated that marriage does tend to benefit society in general,children in particular and that the current system rewards people for living apart. Francis seemed completely unable to articulate this coherently. Either he is a very poor debater (probably true,I saw him utterly monstered by Charlie Kennedy in the 2001 GE)or he doesn't believe in our policy.

Terry, if being a single parent is "like having a dice with 1-1-1-2-3-3 on it", then young people should be told that and be discouraged from picking up that dice. So although I think Maude's performance was weak (and not just on this) I think he was right to talk about sending a message. When I was a teenager I was aware that the government allowed certain financial advantages to married couples, irrespective of whether they had children, and whatever one may say about preaching and sanctimonious politicians that was clearly a signal that the married state was viewed with official approval. Later governments decided to withdraw that official approval and adopt a supposedly neutral position, effectively announcing to the population that "we don't care whether you get married or not", while also extending to never-married mothers all the benefits that had previously been given to widowed mothers, and more besides. The proof of the pudding is in the eating, and in this case it's become clear from the social consequences that the government should care whether people get married or not. Hain's position was that "That woman in the audience needs the money more than I do", without any caveats about how she may have come to be in that position and or pausing to think that in some cases giving more money to a single parent might simply encourage others to follow a bad example. As I've said before, there are many different routes to single parenthood, some tragic but completely honourable, others thoroughly dishonourable, but for Marxists like Hain, Harman et al it can all be reduced to the simple dictum "from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs" with the inevitable consequence that there's always a disincentive for anybody to increase their ability and an incentive for them to firstly over-state, or secondly to even increase, their needs. It would be good to hear Cameron or other senior Tories explicitly reject this Marxist doctrine.

Better for a mother to marry the father than The State

If Johnson wants to remove "bias" from the system, why doesn't he abolish marriage and civil partnerships alltogether?

The statistical evidence that kids 'fail' more often from one parent families is clear. It is also clear that many lone parents still succeed proving that the situation itself is not the cause of failure. So what else causes the problem? Instead of pouring money and support into the interventionist black hole we first need to admit that recent policy has been proved not to work, has in fact contributed to the problem. You cannot castigate Francis Maude for failing to defend a doomed policy, based on misguided socialist principles, especially when the policy is designed to win an election not to solve any problems.

Peter Hain scored points over Maude when his party has caused the problem. Would Maude have lost a debate on Iraq, nuclear power, trident? The next election is ours to lose given the incompetence of this government and the only way we lose is to fight it on their issues. Cameron has been right to reposition the party with rhetoric, but the public want solutions to vote for, not more of the same.

I expect the problem is that Maude doesn't believe in the policy, which is why he performed so badly.

Valedictoryan - I wouldn't regard QT's audience as being in any way representative of public opinion. Most people will welcome David Cameron's stance on this issue.

"Either he is a very poor debater (probably true,I saw him utterly monstered by Charlie Kennedy in the 2001 GE)or he doesn't believe in our policy."

Malcolm, I suspect that both might be true.

Physically Maude didn't look on good form - I wondered if he was coming down with flu.

I don't believe in this policy but, if I were representing the party on QT, I could sure as hell be loyally recite the most persuasive arguments I'd read on CH.

I think this whole pro-marriage stance is Cameron throwing red meat to the right. It'll neither win nor lose votes, but it'll help keep the Tombstone element on board.

In response to Ed Clarke's comment, Johnson may well find that the senior judiciary effectively abolish marriage and civil partnerships for him. The biggest threats to the institution of marriage, etc are probably clad in ermine and wear wigs.

"this policy is unravelling in front of our eyes. It seems that the public has no more appetite today for sanctimonious preaching than it had 15 years ago." (Valedictoryan 23:32)

As usual, this poster clearly hasn't looked at what politicians have said to get elected. In 1997, one Tony Bliar got voted in with a massive majority precisely because he 'preached' a very socially conservative line, and said that NuLab would support married couples and would make it beneficial for married couples with children to stay married.

It was popular then; it's popular now ! Whilst NuLab, with so many other things, have done the complete opposite of what they promised. Only the usual hand-ringing liberal wets don't like the idea of supporting the institution of marriage: the bed-rock of civilised Britain.

If other government policy has removed school, police, the notion of 'responsibility' and role models as possible sources of guidance/discipline then more kids will fail. simple as that. Single parents will fail more often given the most powerful influence on a child is a parent and if you have two parents trying to instill these notions you have more chance of success.

The support parents need is not financial, legal or pastoral but the support that when their kids leave the house similar standards of behaviour will be maintained. If you cannot recognise this then policy will be pointless and indefensible.

"The support parents need is not financial, legal or pastoral"

Try telling that to hard-pressed married couples with childre on a low household income.

"Another hero of the pro-family movement is Jill Kirby. Her work at the Centre for Policy Studies has laid many of the foundations for the pro-marriage position that the Conservative Party has adopted. Jill Kirby has written for today's Daily Express - defending David Cameron from Alan Johnson's attacks."

As the Editor neglected to mention it, it might be worth pointing out that Jill Kirby has also been a leading figure within a pressure group that believes mothers shouldn't have a career of their own.

DVA - untrue. Full Time Mothers is pressure group that believes women should have the choice and is against Government policy aimed at driving mothers into full-time employment. Have to declare an interest here as a family member has been on the board of the group.

Ted, it might be the case that FTM is ostensibly in favour of mothers having the choice of whether to sacrifice their careers or not, but one look at the FTM website reveals their true agenda - guilt-tripping and demonising working mothers.

I don't see it like that at all. For maybe 99% plus of both men and women, raising their children properly would be the most important job they ever did in their lives - more important than anything they could achieve in their paid jobs or careers. The other 1% are the people who make exceptional, absolutely essential and maybe even unique contributions to society or the wider world through their careers. It seems to me that this website recognises that vital truth, which has been denied for far too long with disastrous consequences. Brown wants mothers out of their homes where their work is invaluable but unpaid, and into paid work, not because he cares about them or their children but because the shift from unpaid work to paid work both adds to the GDP statistic and his tax revenues, and opens the door for more governmental control.

DVA - FTM isn't about guilt trips for working mothers but about the imposition of guilt on mothers who choose not to work because they want to be at home with their children. Government policy has become about working mothers. There are many women who want the choice - it might sound like they are putting down working mothers but that is against a social & state system that is making their choice more and more difficult.

FTM isn't saying its wrong for women to work but defending the decision of their members to choose not to because they believe home parenting is a better choice than childcare. It's not a pressure group to drive women back into the 1950'sbut one to protect the interests of those who prefer the option.

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