Cameron must defend the traditional family



22:46 GMT, 28 December 2012

Promises: David Cameron devoted much of his party conference speech this year to his own family story and his belief that 'family comes first'

Promises: David Cameron devoted much of his party conference speech this year to his own family story and his belief that 'family comes first'

Today the Mail reveals how, by the time they are 14, only two-thirds of British children will be living with both their parents in a stable family environment.

Disturbingly, the figure is one of the lowest in the western world – with only youngsters in Latvia, Estonia and Belgium less likely to grow up under the same roof as their mother and father, according to the OECD think-tank.

Tellingly, in countries such as Germany and France, which offer tax breaks to encourage couples to remain together, levels of family break-up are significantly lower than in the UK, where no such financial support exists.

Indeed, in Britain – which, according to the OECD, has the highest proportion of single parent households in western Europe – our perverse tax system actually incentivises mothers to live alone.

We concede that many single mothers selflessly care for their children in difficult circumstances. But, as study upon study has shown, children living in two-parent households are more likely to prosper at school and avoid falling into trouble with the authorities.

In the words of Iain Duncan Smith, the Work and Pensions Secretary: ‘When families are strong and stable, so are children – showing higher levels of well-being and more positive outcomes.’

So why, given these sentiments, has the Coalition done absolutely nothing to support the institution of marriage

David Cameron devoted much of his party conference speech this year to his own family story and his belief that ‘family comes first’.

Yet the Prime Minister – who, of course, has dedicated so much time and energy to introducing a gay marriage policy which the majority of his party does not support – has failed to honour his pre-election promise to give tax breaks for married couples.

Worse, the Coalition has actively undermined the traditional family – making a real-terms cut in maternity pay and, most unfairly, stripping child benefit from homes in which one person earns 60,000, but leaving untouched those in which two parents earn 50,000 each.

As this paper has long argued, the family is the greatest institution known to man.

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Strong families produce responsible, aspirational, self-reliant citizens.

Strong families are potent bulwarks against totalitarian and over-mighty states. Strong families provide their own welfare, education and personal care systems.

That is why the Mail urges Mr Cameron to make his New Year’s resolution to stop worrying about gay marriage and do everything he can to support the family – which is under attack as never before in Britain.

A plan that works

Under Labour, teenagers were pressurised to go to university regardless of their skills and interests, to meet a grandiose target of putting half of all school-leavers into higher education.

Sadly, for many of these youngsters, Tony Blair’s hubristic policy has proved a hugely expensive mistake. It left them with huge debts, degrees which were often of limited appeal to employers and, worst of all, no job.

So today we applaud Matthew Hancock, the new skills minister, for his common-sense acknowledgement that ‘university is not for everyone’.

The government must now give its full support to his ambitious plan to introduce apprenticeships which allow young people to go straight from A-levels into professions such as accountancy, advanced engineering and insurance.

If Britain is to prosper, it needs to urgently rebuild the tried and tested system of workplace learning which, until Labour wrecked it, had served this country so well for decades.