Marriage the key to happy families, says Cameron

Conservative leader David Cameron yesterday launched an attack on Labour's "pathological" opposition to supporting marriage. His comments come in the wake of Children's Secretary Ed Balls' insistence that marriage was not the key to a happy family.

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Marriage, says Cameron, is "celebrated" and "encouraged" in most European countries and pledged that a Tory government would change the tax system to benefit married couples and those in civil partnerships. Ed Balls yesterday announced that proposals to be published next year will maintain that children's welfare is best protected through "stable and lasting relationships between parents". He said: "The Tory policy is that marriage is first-class and any other relationship is second-class. That is fundamentally not in the interests of children. We should be about supporting strong and stable relationships."

But with the Family and Parenting Institute (set up by Labour), suggesting that there is no longer any such thing as a "typical family", is David Cameron right to reward the traditional family unit? Mr Cameron told the Daily Mail: "There's a long-term benefit in trying to have a tax and a benefit system that supports commitment and couples and families."

Figures produced by the Office for National Statistics early this year, revealed that marriage rates in England and Wales had fallen to their lowest level since records began. However, more recent surveys have shown that almost nine out of 10 young people still aspire to be married as do under-35s who are already co-habiting. 'Aspiring' to be married is not the same as actually tying the knot though and the question remains, is marriage as an institution still relevant in our current society?

Mr Cameron added: "I think marriage is a good institution. I don't need an opinion poll to tell me whether it is or it isn't. That's just what I think."

But what do you think? Are families based around co-habiting couples more unstable or is marriage simply an outdated and old-fashioned institution?