Marriage

If you believe that the political parties are adopting the same policies, think again.

A fortnight ago, a Conservative Party policy commission recommended radical solutions to the problem of social breakdown, including ending the bias against marriage in the tax system by giving married couples a transferable tax allowance.

Gordon Brown immediately attacked the idea, calling it "moralising". So there you have it: a totally different approach. Such divergence also seems likely in the response to controversial proposals made this week by the Law Commission.

It recommended the introduction of new financial remedies for couples who have had a child together, or who have lived together for a minimum period of two years, and then decide to separate.

I think these proposals need to be tested against two key objectives: strengthening families and protecting children. My concern is that creating a form of ‘marriage lite' could undermine the institution which gives children the most stability.

And the aim of protecting children is, in any case, compromised by the fact that couples could opt out of the scheme.

By a child's fifth birthday almost half of cohabiting parents have split up, compared to less than 1 in 12 married parents. Three quarters of all family breakdown affecting children under five involve unmarried parents.

As David Cameron has said, "families matter more than anything else to our society .... Britain is almost the only country in Europe that doesn't recognise marriage in the tax system, and the benefits system actively discourages parents from living together."

I think he is right. I am the last person to judge anyone for choosing a different lifestyle. But you do not have to moralise to see the value of supporting marriage as an institution which underpins a strong society. We should be wary of changes which would further undermine it.

Michelle Taylor