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Wednesday, October 21, 1998 Published at 11:12 GMT 12:12 UK


UK

Thatcher stirs up single parents

Family values: Mrs Thatcher arrives for her speech

Single-parent support groups have attacked Lady Thatcher's claim that unmarried mothers and their children would be better off in religious orders than on welfare.

In a speech in Kentucky, the former prime minister deplored what she said was the high rate of illegitimate births.

Nearly one in three babies in the UK and USA is born outside marriage.


The BBC's Adam Keelan reports on the statistics behind Mrs Thatcher's speech
Mrs Thatcher said: "It is far better to put these children in the hands of a very good religious organisation, and the mother as well, so that they will be brought up with family values."

She told an audience in the Commonwealth Convention Centre in Louisville the spread of illegitimacy "devalues our values, our community".


The BBC's Danielle Nagler reports on Mrs Thatcher's controversial remarks
She said governments had made things worse by providing social security benefits for single mothers.

Maeve Sherlock of the Council of One Parent Families said: "Mrs Thatcher is sounding like someone from another age.

"Eighty years ago anyone who found themselves pregnant outside marriage was sent to the workhouse."

Hague distances himself

Ms Sherlock added: "That's not the kind of approach we want to modern families.

"The vast majority of single parents have in fact been married, and most single mothers don't choose to be so because they know how tough it is."


[ image: William Hague: Single parents deserve respect]
William Hague: Single parents deserve respect
The Conservative leader William Hague has distanced himself from the remarks, saying that single parents deserve respect.

But the comments come as the Conservatives try to restructure the party's welfare policy to focus on married parents and the traditional family.

Shadow Social Security Secretary Iain Duncan Smith told the party's 1998 conference the Tories wanted to "strengthen the institution of the family".

The "misguided" ideology of the 1960s "crusade" to free women from marriage "has freed men from marriage, and from responsibility", he declared.

"It has also taught that children represented just another lifestyle choice.

"This is wrong. Marriage matters, and children are not just a lifestyle choice, but a lifelong obligation."

Welfare reform remains high on the government's agenda.

Its determination to reform the welfare system is a response to the spiralling social security budget, which accounts for one third of all government spending, and a simultaneous increase in poverty.



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