Marriage is important and the Government wants to support the institution in the tax system, a senior Cabinet minister has said.
Iain Duncan Smith praised marriage as a “fundamental institution” and hit out at those in the political world who, over the years, “frowned” at its mention.
The minister’s speech followed a report which warned that Britain’s high levels of family breakdown were a key factor in the “rising tide” of mental illness.
Mr Duncan Smith criticised successive Governments for shying away from “proper discussion about the structure and importance of the family”.
He praised marriage, calling it “our most basic” institution. However he also said “the Coalition supports civil partnerships”.
The minister commented that Prime Minister David Cameron “continues to be committed to recognising marriage in the tax system”, although the Mr Cameron has previously acknowledged such recognition would also include civil partnerships.
Mr Duncan Smith, the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, said his department would reintroduce references to marriage on official forms and pieces of research. Such references had been excluded by the previous Labour Government.
While criticising former Governments the minister said now “the tide is beginning to turn”, with the “role of marriage in family life and the importance of stable families” becoming an “important topic”.
He said this was because there was more of an understanding of the harm done by family breakdown.
The minister said that previously, the “prevailing view was that to extol the virtues of this most fundamental institution somehow meant that you were going to stigmatise those who were not married”. He called this an “absurd and damaging assumption”.
“Support for our most basic and successful institution does not mean that you cannot be sympathetic to and supportive of families where one parent is left with the difficult responsibility of bringing up the children”, Mr Duncan Smith commented.
Describing marriage as “the most basic institution, which nurtures each generation and from which so many of us draw our strength and purpose”, he said it goes “unnoticed and unrewarded”.
“Fashionably dismissed or taken for granted, the commitment of two people to put selfish interest to one side for the sake of each other and the children they raise is simply the very best of us as human beings”, he said.
Mr Duncan Smith also hit out at family breakdown, including its personal costs – “the wasted potential, the anti-social behaviour, and the low self-esteem”.
A new report by the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) think-tank this month also issued a warning about family breakdown. The CSJ was established by Iain Duncan Smith.
The think-tank cautioned that family breakdown’s status as a cause of mental illness is “frequently unacknowledged”.
The CSJ called for treatment for mental illness to be “more focused on helping the whole family unit as a way of preventing mental illness among children”.
Mr Duncan Smith’s comments came in a speech made at the start of Marriage Week UK, which “exists to raise the awareness of all in UK of the considerable social importance of marriage to society, and to encourage married couples everywhere to celebrate their commitment to each other”.
It is organised by, among others, Christian charity CARE and the Church of England.