3 Mar 2007

"The best chance to grow" by Terry Prendergast in The Tablet

Would that more journals concerned with religious and moral issues could attract writers like Terry Prendergast [The Tablet 3rd March 2007] to dig a bit deeper than most of our politicians on the subject of marriage:

"But take a closer look at the politicians' chief concerns about marriage or the lack of it. When National Marriage Week was launched last month at the House of Commons, the former Conservative Party leader Iain Duncan Smith spoke about his recent report, Breakdown Britain, which highlighted that the cost of family breakdown appears to have risen by about £7 billion in a 10-year period. However, what was most striking about his comments was that he stressed the importance of marriage for the stability of society, never once mentioning the importance for the couple themselves, their health or their well-being.

This is a typical approach for a politician, as government, and would-be governing parties, tend to be concerned more with social stability than with personal and emotional health. And that reflects a clear failure to understand that the former depend on the latter. "

What to do then?

Well, I have suggested in an earlier post that people can write to their MPs [it's easily done, see this page on the right] and to the Odysseus Trust to ask them to support an amendment to Lord Lester's Forced Marriage (Civil Protection) Bill. This would include in the 'guidance' for all couples getting married information about the benefits of undertaking a research-based programme of marriage preparation, including a pre-marital inventory.

There is also an opportunity with the Statistics and Registration Service Bill to insert a clause for publishing a Social Capital Index. There is already a clause [19] to provide for the Retail Price Index. My proposal is:

[20] Social capital index
(1) The Board must under section 18
(a) compile and maintain a social capital index by neighbourhood, and
(b) publish it every year, together with
(c) statistics relating to social and domestic cohesion.

Again, it is a simple matter to write to your MP about it.

There is a further reason for taking action now:

The Statistics and Registration Service Bill "will also establish proper employment status and rights for registration officers (as local authority employees) in England and Wales." Whereas in the past registration officers - not being employees of local authorities - could not be required by local authorities to promote marriage education programmes, it will soon be much easier for a local authority to do this, if it has thought through and published a coherent policy for social and domestic cohesion for its area.

In an earlier debate [4th November 2002] Ruth Kelly said:

In our White Paper, [Delivering Vital Change] the Government explained that the registration service is ideally placed to act as a focal point for information about services associated with births, deaths and marriages, such as ........ marriage preparation...... I believe that there is a genuine opportunity for local authorities to develop those services innovatively to meet the needs of their communities, now and in future. A wider role for the registration service will improve on the current piecemeal approach by local authorities and will be underpinned by the proposed national standards.

Sadly, the proposals - which were contained in a Regulatory Reform Order, not a Bill - eventually failed to come into effect. The conclusion was:

"The Committee reports that the proposal for the Regulatory Reform (Registration of Births and Deaths)(England and Wales) Order 2004 is not an appropriate subject for a regulatory reform order. The proposed order should not be proceeded with."

Fortunately, the Statistics and Registration Service Bill and the Forced Marriage (Civil Protection) Bill together - if passed with the amendments I am proposing - could start to transform the culture in favour of marriage.

But I suspect our parliamentarians will need much 'encouragement'!

No comments: