BBC host says Britain Needs Marriage

The presenter of a new BBC documentary on ‘broken Britain’ says the decline of marriage is to blame – but that social liberals will find that hard to accept.

John Ware, whose programme The Death of Respect goes out on BBC2 tonight, says the “post-war experiment in individualism” has left us with a fragmented society.

He said: “This started in the 1970s with the increase in unmarried parents, lone parents, cohabiting parents and step-parents.

“In its wake came generations of children who have been shifted from pillar to post.”

Mr Ware says that in the “rush to sweep away from the 1960s much that was bad”, Britain “also abandoned much that was good, including the institution of marriage.”

But despite “the evidence of marriage being generally best for children”, Mr Ware said the Government had “avoided debating” the issue.

He said: “Despite such authoritative warnings, ministers and their advisors seem reconciled to the relentless rise in family breakdown and single parenthood, seeing this as an irreversible social trend whose expensive consequences we will just have to crisis manage”.

Mr Ware said the only way to reverse the problem is to “accept that the fragmentation of society is closely linked to the decline of marriage.”

Mr Justice Coleridge, a leading family judge who features in Mr Ware’s programme, said the BBC had given it an 11.20pm TV slot because the content on family breakdown was deemed “too dark” for prime time.

He wrote last month of inviting a BBC researcher to spend the day watching a run-of-the-mill High Court case.



He said she was “stunned into silence and remained speechless” when he told her that “within the Royal Courts of Justice, there were 20 or so other judges engaged in similar cases”.

“Across inner London, well over 100 family courts were dealing with family breakdown that day, in one guise or another. Multiply that across the rest of the country, and you get some feel for the scale of the epidemic”, he commented.

‘Delay divorce to save marriages’ says report

Couples seeking a divorce should have a compulsory three-month “cooling off” period first, according to a leading social policy think tank.

It also recommends marriage classes before tying the knot and counselling to help prevent marriages from breaking down.

The suggestions come in a new report produced by the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) which is run by former Conservative leader, Iain Duncan Smith.

The report, entitled Every Family Matters, urges couples to explore the possibility of reconciliation before starting divorce proceedings.

It recommends a number of ways to reform family law to “save saveable marriages”, maintaining that marriage “is of paramount importance to individuals, children, communities and our nation.”

It calls for tax breaks for married couples and new policies to encourage marriage over cohabitation.

Mr Duncan Smith said: “Instead of giving cohabitees similar legal rights as married couples, which would only undermine marriage, we have to do more to warn people that they can only secure the legal protection of marriage by getting married.

“The cooling off period and the requirement for estranged couples to receive information about the implications of divorce will help to save some worthwhile marriages.”

Last month a Government-commissioned report revealed that children whose parents separate are likely to suffer “enduring” problems with their education, mental health and future relationships.

The report looked at the impact of family breakdown and cited behavioural problems, gaining fewer educational qualifications, needing more medical treatment, becoming pregnant at an early age and turning to drugs, alcohol or smoking, as possible negative consequences.

Leading family lawyer Mr Justice Coleridge warned last month that an “epidemic” of family breakdown is ‘infecting’ children.

To stem the tide, marriage should be affirmed as the “gold standard” of relationships, he said.