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The Blessing of Marriage

The wedding of the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh
The royal couple have celebrated 60 years of marriage
BBC Radio 4's Analysis: The Blessing of Marriage will be broadcast on Thursday, 22nd November 2007 at 20:30 and repeated on Sunday 25th November at 21.30 GMT

Camilla Cavendish asks if the state should support marriage and parenting.

It's 60 years since the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh married. But she's becoming out of tune with her subjects.

Soon marriage could be a minority sport.

The Conservative leader David Cameron has promised to put support for marriage and the family at the heart of his manifesto for the next general election.

Baby in pram
Should the state tell parents how to bring up their kids?

Until now the government has been reluctant to support the traditional marriage, arguing that it would be wrong to discriminate against single parents and cohabiting couples.

Gordon's goodies

But recently Gordon Brown has insisted in Prime Minister's Questions that his government does recognise marriage favourably in the tax system, and that it is the duty of every citizen to support not just some children in this country, but all children.

And Andy Burnham, Chief Secretary to the Treasury, said last month that there was a "moral case" for promoting the traditional family through the tax system in order to reflect the benefits of marriage for the good of society.

The government should be neutral on marriage and personal relationships in general in the kind of way that I'm neutral on sheep shearing in Australia
Sean from the Parents Forum
So should the tax and benefit system favour married couples or should the state be neutral when it comes to the value of different relationships?

Cohabitation nation

The debate about marriage takes place at a time, when cohabiting couples are the fastest growing family type in the UK, and together with single mothers are set to push married parents into the minority by 2031.

Politicians across the spectrum are concerned about the number of children who grow up without two parents.

But is marriage the answer to social breakdown?

And do we really want the state to try and influence our most intimate relationship choices and the way we bring up our children?

Camilla Cavendish discusses these issues with - among others - the former Conservative Party leader Iain Duncan Smith, who this summer published a major report on family breakdown: the Labour MP Frank Field, who thinks the tax and benefits system favours single parenthood: and with a group of parents who are fed up with the nanny state.

Presenter: Camilla Cavendish
Producer: Ingrid Hassler
Editor: Hugh Levinson




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