Page last updated at 10:50 GMT, Tuesday, 30 September 2008 11:50 UK

Tories to offer marriage advice

Wedding ring
People need to know what they are getting into, the Tories say

A future Conservative government would offer counselling to couples about to get married, shadow schools secretary Michael Gove has said.

People should not have to feel they were "on their own" when building a relationship, he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

The state had to be more "practical" and "human-centred", he added.

He also outlined proposals to encourage flexible working when he addressed the Conservative conference.

'Greatest strain'

He told Today he also wanted to expand home visits for couples with newborn babies, making them "truly universal in the best traditions of the NHS".

Mr Gove said: "We all know that it is in the first few years of a child's life that the greatest strain is placed on the family's household income.

"One of things we want to do is to say the state can be there in practical human-centred ways to help people cope with difficult times.

FROM THE TODAY PROGRAMME

"One of the things we are particularly keen to do is to expand the system of health visitors. Health visitors are almost one of the friendliest faces of the state.

Mr Gove said when couples started a relationship and made the decision to bring up children they should not have to feel they were "on their own".

He went on: "Our argument is we need civil society to help so when one of our other announcements is ensuring that when people choose to get married and if they choose to get married in a register office, that we make available to them, before they get married, relationship counselling.

"Civil society organisations are going to help us to ensure that people know what they are getting into.

"The state has a role to play but that role is in partnership with the voluntary sector and it is there to help people follow the grain of human nature."



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