The popular assumption that cohabitation is the same as marriage is a “myth”, a respected author and policy analyst has said.
Writing in The Daily Telegraph, Jill Kirby pointed to statistics showing that among cohabiting parents, the rate of relationship breakdown is far higher than that of married families.
And Mrs Kirby criticised David Cameron for the “toning down of his rhetoric” on marriage following the Conservative party’s partnership with the Liberal Democrats in Government.
She also highlighted that the UK’s tax and welfare systems are skewed against marriage and welcomed moves to put the institution “back on the agenda”.
Mrs Kirby’s comments follow a speech by Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Iain Duncan Smith last week.
In his speech Mr Duncan Smith praised marriage, and criticised those in the political world who, over the years, “frowned” at its mention. However he also said “the Coalition supports civil partnerships”.
Mrs Kirby, who until this month was Director of the Centre for Policy Studies, said David Cameron was “only too familiar” with statistics that support marriage. She also commented that Mr Cameron’s praise of the institution was “at the core” of his campaign for the Conservative Party leadership in 2005.
But, she said, Mr Cameron’s “own political cohabitation, with Nick Clegg, has led to a toning down of his rhetoric”.
She criticised Mr Clegg’s view “that government support for marriage amounts to telling people how to live their lives, and that politicians should keep out”.
And she said that “putting marriage back into the script should appeal to every true liberal as well as the socially conservative”.
Mrs Kirby commented: “Britain is unique in subjecting marriage to a double whammy: support is heavily slanted towards lone parenthood, yet there are no compensating tax allowances for couples.”
During Mr Duncan Smith’s speech last week, he commented that the Prime Minister “continues to be committed to recognising marriage in the tax system”, although Mr Cameron has previously acknowledged that such recognition would also include civil partnerships.
Mr Duncan Smith lauded marriage, calling it “our most basic” institution.
Mr Duncan Smith’s comments came in a speech 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.