MPs have called on the Government to do more to support marriage because family breakdown costs £46 billion a year and causes misery for children.
Speaking during a Westminster Hall debate, Conservative MP Sir Gerald Howarth highlighted statistics from think tank the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) which showed that more than 3 million children are growing up in a lone parent household, 92 per cent of which are headed by the mother.
He said: “Statistics show that children of separated parents are more likely to have physical and mental health problems in childhood and to fall into crime or substance abuse in later life.”
He added, “children from broken homes are statistically less likely to be able to establish stable relationships themselves, thereby continuing the cycle”.
The Relationships Foundation think tank has put the cost of family breakdown at around £46 billion a year – up from £37 billion in 2009.
Sir Gerald said: “The cost to the taxpayer, the cost in human misery and the damage to children serve to prove why it is time that Parliament took the issue more seriously”.
And Tory MP Sir Edward Leigh said there is almost a “conspiracy of silence” on the issue, saying that churches, schools, the BBC, Parliament and the media are all to blame.
“Marriage works. It is best for children. Every statistic proves it. Why are not the churches, schools and Government crying that out from the roof tops?”
Tory MP Fiona Bruce said the “nature and extent” of family breakdown have “all the hallmarks of a public health emergency”.
She said stronger relationships are a “national resource” that we “ignore at our peril”.
Close to half of the 729,674 babies born in England and Wales in 2012 will experience the breakdown of their parents’ relationship by the time they are 15 years old, according to projections made based on current trends by the Marriage Foundation think tank.
Further Marriage Foundation statistics also showed that of the 51 per cent of children who will still be living with their parents at their 15th birthday, only 5 per cent will have unmarried parents.
During the debate, Government minister Edward Timpson said there is still work to be done on the “messages that come from Government about how we build strong relationships across society”.
He added: “The marriage tax break is a step in the right direction that will help to ensure that all the attributes marriage brings with it flourish and do not wither.”
In December, the Chancellor announced a marriage tax break worth £200 a year – but critics said the move was “political game playing” and did not go far enough.