Conservatives pledge support for ‘marriage’

The state needs to provide support for engaged couples and new parents because wider family structures are failing, says the shadow families secretary.

A Conservative government would routinely offer relationship counselling to any couple marrying at a registry office, says Michael Gove, Shadow Secretary for Children, Schools and Families.

Mr Gove did not make it clear whether the policy will also apply to homosexual civil partners. The Conservatives say that any tax breaks for married couples they introduce will also apply to civil partnerships.

Mr Gove was speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme in anticipation of his speech at the Conservative Party conference.

Listen to the Radio 4 interview

He said: “Our argument is we need civil society to help so one of our other announcements is ensuring that when people choose to get married and if they choose to get married in a registry office, that we make available to them, before they get married, relationship counselling.”

He also said that his party would introduce policies on flexible working and offer more NHS support for new parents to help alleviate current pressures on families.

He said that extra help was needed because “the support networks that used to exist a generation ago or two generations ago, aunties and grannies, are no longer there in the same way”.

He acknowledged that charities were helping to fill the gap, but that the state also has a role to play “in partnership with the voluntary sector, and it’s there to help people follow the grain of human nature.”

Although Mr Gove only referred to marriage during his interview, he has recently been criticised for arguing that the Conservatives should have supported civil partnerships and gay adoption.

In a speech on the family earlier this year he said that that the demand for civil partnerships is “not a rejection of commitment but a desire to see commitment celebrated and publicly embraced.”