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Last Updated: Sunday, 29 October 2006, 17:45 GMT
Labour to back traditional family
John Hutton
Mr Hutton believes two-parent families are better for children
Traditional two-parent families are "invisible" to the state, with all the help focused on lone parents, the work and pensions secretary has said.

In a major shift in Labour's welfare policy, John Hutton pledged a "new deal" for two-parent families.

Last month he sparked controversy by saying two-parent households were "better" for children.

The Tories say families "come in all shapes and sizes" and "stability" is more important for children.

Party leader David Cameron recently called for cheaper child care for lone parents.

But he has also spoken out strongly in favour of marriage as a cornerstone of society, calling for tax breaks for married couples, whether straight or gay.

'Loving parents'

Mr Hutton, who has pledged to carry on Tony Blair's legacy when the prime minster steps down, has also said marriage is a "good thing".

And he has courted controversy with the left of his party by saying children would do better if they were brought up in a household "where there are two caring, loving parents" - whether married, cohabiting or in a civil partnership.

He said a report by the government's child poverty expert Lisa Harker would back an extension of the New Deal welfare-to-work programme to cover people bringing up children with a spouse or partner.

Mr Hutton told BBC One's Sunday AM programme: "Often in the welfare state if you are a couple household, with kids, you tend to be invisible.

"If you are a lone parent with children we see you straight away and we focus resources on you, less so I think when it comes to families and that is something we've got to look at very carefully."


He said there would be more help for getting the "second adult" in the household into work.

They may not be on benefits but might need "more targeted employment support for those women - and they are mainly women - who are not actually customers of Job Centre Plus at the moment".

He said Labour's aim of introducing care for all three and four-year-olds by 2010 would "open up a world of new employment opportunities, mainly again for women but for parents generally".

Mr Hutton's plans may depend on securing extra funding from the Treasury - but he once again refused to endorse Chancellor Gordon Brown as the next Labour leader, saying he wanted to see a contest "not a coronation".

The Lib Dems are also keen to promote their family-friendly credentials.

'Financial realities'

Sir Menzies Campbell last week said the "government should play a role in encouraging stable relationships and securing family life".

But he said households where both parents went out to work often "placed a strain on family life".

He added: "We need to give parents genuine choice - the freedom to work if they wish, but also the opportunity to spend more time at home, so they can invest in their family life as well as their professional life."

And while it was not possible to ignore "the financial realities of modern life", work could be more flexible and time spent at home more affordable.

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