Miércoles 21 de Marzo de 2007, Ip nº 184

Britons fall out of love with marriage
Por Rosemary Bennett and Sam Coates

The number of Britons choosing to marry has fallen to the lowest levels in a hundred and eleven years.

Latest figures reveal that the number of marriages has dropped by 30,000 between 2004 and 2005 to a total of just over 244,000.

Opposition parties will use the data today, compiled by the Office for National Statistics, to attack Labour policies for hastening the demise of the institution of marriage.

Experts predict that the 2005 decline of 10 per cent will get worse if the Government pushes through plans to give cohabiting couples the same legal rights as married couples.

The ONS figures show the marriage rate for men was 24.2 per 1,000 unmarried men aged 16 and over, down from 27.8 in 2004, while for women it was 21.6 per 1,000, down from 24.6 a year earlier. The annual rate is also the lowest since records began in 1862.

David Cameron will outline today a series of plans designed to encourage couples to marry and then stay together. The Conservative party is considering proposals for premarital counselling and relationship classes. Less than 5 per cent of cohabiting couples stay together for longer than ten years.

The Conservative leader will visit Manchester today to look at a project offering strong male role models for children from broken homes.

The ONS data shows civil marriages fell most sharply, by 13 per cent to 160,270, although weddings at new “approved premises”, such as stately homes, rose.

The average age that men and women marry increased to 36.2 years for men and 33.6 years for women — up by three years for both sexes since 1995.

The ONS said that a legal change designed to crack down on “sham marriages” may also have had an impact on the figures.

The Tories are examining schemes currently operating in the United States and Australia, such as “relationship centres” designed to encourage marriage and then help couples stay together once they have children. This comes on the recommendation of Iain Duncan Smith, who chairs the Tory social justice policy commission.

Mr Duncan Smith’s report published today concludes that “it is the child who grows up in a broken home with an absent father involved in crime who is most likely to commit crime themselves — and become a father himself at a very young age. Unchecked, the cycle looks set to continue and to multiply in its effects.”

The Conservatives are examining whether they can duplicate the healthy marriage initiative in the US, which involves classes for couples and advice on how to raise children, handle money and solve problems.

Mr Duncan Smith’s report recommends that services should take advantage of the “magic moment” straight after the birth of children to encourage couples to get married. Jenny North, head of public policy at Relate, said: “Ten per cent is a big drop and reflects the increasing number of obstacles that are now in the way of getting married,” she said. “The cost of weddings is enormous with people now describing it as a ‘luxury good’”.

Robert Whelan, deputy director of the think-tank Civitas, said the Government bore much responsibility for the decline. “Public policy is not supportive of marriage now.”

  22/02/2007. Times Online.


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