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Nick Gulliford
Taunton
Recent Activity
Patsy, I am sorry you concluded that I "seem to think that this government expects individuals to 'do' all the changing in communities on their own!?" The point I am trying to make is that local leaders - school governors, GP's and other health professionals, faith and other community leaders etc. will be better equipped to measure changes if relevant statistics and indices are published. I agree with you that "each area, each district has its own needs, which will have their own special solutions, and the people who live in those areas are best qualified to know what will suit them best". I am not proposing a "top-down, one size-fits-all" solution. The Social Exclusion Unit said soon after the start of the Labour government that there were 8 indicators of deprivation, one of which was family breakdown. The Neighbourhod Renewal Unit and the ONS then published indices and statistics for 7 indicators, but omitted family breakdown. The government then changed its policy saying, "we shall not promote one type of family structure over another" and it ceased to require marital status from being collected on government forms. It was a deliberate attempt to suppress information relevant for research purposes. The present government has not yet committed to redressing this situation. When there is an announcement that it will publish a family stability index by neghbourhood we can start to believe that it means business. Let's not confuse the issue by talking about "boob jobs" as it only muddies the waters.
Toggle Commented Oct 9, 2010 on Five problems with the Big Society at thetorydiary
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A good thing about Jill Kirby's article - and Lord Hutton's report on pensions - is that they both help us to focus on some of the anomalies we have ignored, in some cases for decades, and others for generations. We still have to face up to the absurdity of a tax system that pretends spouses are normally treated as separate entities and a benefit system that tries to treat all couples living together as part of the same household. Some very careful thinking is needed to establish what is really required.
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"The way to demonstrate Big Society is to find people who are already making a difference at a local level and make them stars." Yes, but it's not just the people, it is also the programmes and policies that are changing neighbourhoods. Unless the government is willing to publish relevant statistics and indices to enable local leaders to measure changes by neighbourhood, there will be no spotlight on the important issues. We shall continue to be fed a diet of GDP and RPI which is not relevant to the Big Society.
Toggle Commented Oct 8, 2010 on Five problems with the Big Society at thetorydiary
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"Let us support the real routes out of poverty: a strong family; a good education; a job." Yes, yes, yes! But whereas there are plenty of statistics and indices relating to education and employment, why is there no index of family stability by neighbourhood? If changes could be measured by neighbourhood we could start to see which local programmes and policies are working. The Conservatives will not be credible on the issue of family stability until there are better was of measuring it. And when family stability can be measured many more local community leaders will take an interest in it.
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Yes, it's a good idea. It would also be nice to know what happened to policy announcements at earlier conferences. At the Conservative Party Conference in October 2009 Maria Miller reiterated her announcement made at the conference in September 2008 but without elaboration: 'Most young couples now get married in a civil ceremony. Unlike a church wedding, there is no tradition of pre-marriage preparation for couples marrying at a registry office ... we want local registrars to start signposting couples to pre-marital education as a matter of routine. The Local Government Association [members] who co-ordinate the role of wedding registrars agree and I am pleased to say that they [are] putting forward this policy so that every young couple getting married will be made aware of the benefits they would get from relationship support at this critical point in their life.' The Local Government Association published posters for register offices signposting couples to a website the front page of which does not even mention marriage, let alone preparation for it. It does seem to be a policy shrouded in smoke and mirrors. No one seems to want to accept responsibility for it. Which presumably means no one can be held accountable for it.
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If promoting "parents to live together under the same roof" is an important aspect of the transition from poverty to prosperity", why can't the Conservatives get on with implementing its policy of signposting couples to marriage and relationship education programmes, in preference to talking about prenuptial agreements? [Henry Bellingham, the shadow justice minister, said: "We want to bring in a fairly wide-ranging divorce law reform bill and I'm very keen that part of it will include pre-nups and make them enforceable in law, subject to very strict safeguards." [26/9/09].
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"the right incentives for the unemployed to work and for parents to live together under the same roof" is correct. So why are pre-nuptial agreements [preparations for divorce] apparently ahead of preparation for marriage?
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"faithfulness to your life partner?" So which will come first from this coalition, pre-nuptial agreements [preparation for divorce] or the signposting of couples from register offices to preparation for marriage programmes? Anyone want a bet?
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I shall believe politicians when they start to measure changes in poverty and deprivation properly by neighbourhood. The previous government listed "family breakdown" as one of eight causes of poverty, but then proceeded to publish only seven indices of deprivation, omitting an index for "family stability". Later, they published a "child poverty index". When politicians are talking as much about changes in a "family stability index" and a "social capital index" as they do about GDP it will become clear that they are finally concentrating on the issue of poverty. If such indices were to be published it would be possible to measure the effectiveness of policies and programmes by neighbourhood.
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What about Andrew Selous and Lord Skelmersdale?
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It is revealing that Gordon Brown realised the interview with Mrs Duffy was a disaster, but immediately cast around for someone else to blame for setting it up. It seems that if there is some good news for Labour, GB likes to take the credit personally, but if the news is bad it is always someone else's fault.
Michael Ancram is quite right to focus on our obligations to the next generation. Those interested in this subject may like to read "The Pinch - how the baby boomers took their children's future - and why they should give it back" by David Willetts. It is a very readable and comprehensive account - backed up by research - of what has happened in post-war Britain. It is really good to see that there are senior Conservatives of the same mind as Michael Ancram. Let's hope the findings of David Willetts are not ignored by the next government.
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Tim, you make some good points. But don't you think party members would be more enthusiastic if they were treated like adults rather than mushrooms? David Cameron keeps talking about 'values', 'integrity' and 'morality' and why the Conservatives are going to tackle the 'root causes' of family breakdown. But when it comes down to it his backbone deserts him. Take, for example: "It’s not sex education we need so much as relationship education" he said at a recent 'Cameron Direct' event in Yorkshire. However, he has 'bottled out' of implementing the policy announced by Maria Miller at the 2008 party conference and repeated at the 2009 conference for registrars to signpost couples to marriage preparation and relationship education programmes. The Conservatives control 75% of local authorities. Why has the policy been buried? If he really believed in relationship education it he'd be doing it, not just talking about it.
Toggle Commented Mar 31, 2010 on Blue on blue at thetorydiary
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www.affinities.org.uk
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It is interesting to see how much hot air the Conservatives waste on the subject of tax breaks for married couples over which they have - as yet - no control, and, given the state of the nation's finances, they are not likely to have much room for manoeuvre in the foreseeable future in any case. Rather than talk hypothetically about an aspect of family policy over which they have no control now, why not elaborate on the details of a policy already announced? Implementing the policy for signposting couples from register offices to marriage preparation and relationship education programmes was first announced by Maria Miller at the Conservative Party conference in September 2008 and then re-announced in October 2009! Maria Miller said this policy was supported by the Local Government Association - now controlled by the large majority of Conservative local councils - but the LGA and the Conservative Councillors Association are being secretive to the point of denial on the subject. I don't suppose that encouraging couples to undertake marriage preparation and relationship education courses will - of itself - have a large immediate affect on outcomes, though in many areas in the US, when local clergy announced the signing by clergy, rabbis etc. of a Community Marriage Policy, the local press and media promoted it and the local divorce rate dropped and the marriage rate improved, even before the courses could possibly have had any affect. Subsequent research has substantiated the efficacy of these CMPs. Implementing the policy announced for signposting couples would demonstrate the seriousness of the Conservative commitment to the institution of marriage. Combined with local policies to promote family stability - measured by a local family stability index to be published alongside the local child wellbeing index [http://www.communities.gov.uk/publications/communities/childwellbeing2009] it would establish the Conservatives credentials for being something more than a party of nothing but talk. I am summarising below a potted parliamentary history of the signposting of couples from register offices. 1. Paul Boateng, then Labour Shadow Minister in the Commons for the Lord Chancellor's Department, begins the argument for the signposting of couples by Registrars towards marriage preparation on 24th April 1996 during a debate on the Family Law Bill: "At the moment, there is no preparation at all for civil marriage, and there is absolutely nothing on the face of the Bill to give any hope whatsoever that that will occur or is envisaged... The Government also have to come forward with proposals in relation to preparation for marriage and with proposals that recognise the need for concerted and focused action to support the institution of marriage and the family." [Hansard] 2. The Labour Government makes proposals in its "Supporting Families" consultation for changes in practice at Register Offices to provide more information and support to couples preparing for marriage. 3. "The Hart Report" recommends more government support for preventative couple education programmes; reiterates proposals in "Supporting Families" [The Lord Chancellor agrees with Sir Graham Hart's conclusion that public funding of marriage support agencies is highly appropriate and worth-while. The Lord Chancellor has considered Sir Graham's recommendations in detail, and accepts them. Hansard] 4. "Moving Forward Together", a Proposed Strategy for Marriage and Relationship Support from the Lord Chancellor's Department reiterates proposals in "The Hart Report". 5. "Civil Registration - Vital Change" reiterates "The registration service is ideally placed to act as a focal point for information on services .... for example on ...... marriage preparation". 6. "Civil Registration: Delivering Vital Change" consultation reiterates earlier proposals and includes "Give responsibility for the delivery of face-to-face services to local authorities". 7. In the House of Commons debate the Labour Treasury Minister, Ruth Kelly, says: "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." [Hansard] 8. At the Conservative Party Conference [30th September 2008] Maria Miller, Shadow Minister for the Family, announces "Most young couples now get married in a civil ceremony. Unlike a church wedding, there is no tradition of pre-marriage preparation for couples marrying at a registry office. We want that to change. We want local registrars to start signposting couples to pre-marital education as a matter of routine. The Local Government Association who co-ordinate the role of wedding registrars agree and I am pleased to say that they [are] putting forward this policy so that every young couple getting married will be made aware of the benefits they would get from relationship support at this critical point in their life." 9. The Local Government Association publishes posters for register offices signposting couples to a website the front page of which does not even mention marriage, let alone preparation for it. 10. The Centre For Social Justice publishes "Every Family Matters" [July 2009] and - ignoring the policy announcement of Maria Miller in September 2008 - proposes, "Before being married in England and Wales a couple should be strongly encouraged by Government to attend a pre-marriage information course. A note should be made by the registrar of marriages of those who attend in order to measure effectiveness and usage." 11. At the Conservative Party Conference in October 2009 Maria Miller reiterates her announcement made at the conference in September 2008. 12. Speaking to The Sunday Times [27th December 2009] ahead of the launch of a Labour green paper, Ed Balls announces that his department is “changing the direction and face of [family] policy”. “In the past I think our family policy was all about children. I think our family policy now is actually about the strength of the adult relationships and that is important for the progress of the children,” he said. ..... While Labour will stop short of saying marriage is “superior” to other committed relationships, the new policy will highlight how much better children fare if their parents stay together.
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Yes, I agree, but although the Conservatives control the majority of the local authorities, and Maria Miller has announced at the Conservative conferences in 2008 and 2009 that the LGA agrees with the policy for couples to be signposted by registrars to marriage preparation and relationship education programmes, it hasn't happened, so I wouldn't hold your breath that the FPI really "Looks like an organisation with a good chance of playing a key role in a deficit reduction plan", as Mark Clarke suggests it should.
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In their Weekly Update of UK Marriage News - No 9.45 [www.2-in-2-1.co.uk], Dave and Liz Percival write: "In her speech, Dr Rake will add: “What policy-makers must not do is fall into the trap of investing large sums of money trying to reverse the tide of trends by trying to encourage more ‘traditional families’. “Nor should parents allow them to fall back on old assumptions, which has meant mothers carrying the burden of changing families and parenting demands." But Mr Willetts, who will also address the conference, insisted: "Most young people aspire to settle down with a partner in a long-term commitment to each other to raise their children. "This isn’t some old fashioned idea, that aspiration is as widespread today as ever. "The trouble is that it is hard to achieve, that is where policy incentive, and tax is one of the biggest things, come in." Part of the problem, it must be said, is that instead of using parliamentary time to debate 'family life' - and there have been many opportunities - the Conservatives have relied too heavily on think-tanks - like the Centre for Social Justice - to do their thinking for them and to put forward the arguments. This has led in some cases to muddled thinking, an example of which is Henry Bellingham announcing that cohabiting couples should receive similar rights to married couples, and David Willetts saying nothing has been decided. For more details on why cohabiting couples should not have marital rights thrust upon them, please see the previous issue [Soapbox] of Weekly Update of UK Marriage News - No 9.44 [www.2-in-2-1.co.uk].
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I think it is very encouraging to see an MP engaging with local policies on social issues and with their implementation. "Top down action does not, cannot work. The local and dedicated approach, focusing on individual responsibility provides lasting solutions to the problems of social deprivation in an effective and compassionate manner" is an acknowledgement of the real issues. It would be interesting to know to what extent Westminster City Council is adopting the policy announced by Maria Miller, Shadow Minister for the Family, for the signposting of couples by registrars to marriage preparation and relationship education programmes? "Each of the TaFs has a single operation manager to ensure ultimate accountability and consistency with respect to policy implementation and priority organisation" is good management. I wonder how many of the operation managers are aware of the policy announced by Maria Miller?
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If you are involved with a charity or faith community that receives government funding, you need a long spoon. Early on the Labour government funded community family trusts which deliver marriage preparation and other relationship education programmes. When in Opposition the Labour spokesman in the House of Commons, Paul Boeteng, called for marriage preparation for those having civil weddings. The community family trusts tried - and to some extent succeeded - to deliver what had been called for, but register offices were never supported by a government policy which backed the funding HMG was giving to the trusts. Indeed, after a while, the Labour mantra became, "we shall not promote one family structure over another". The funding was withdrawn - without explanation - and the trusts struggled. But this was probably more because of the lack of public policy support than the lack of funding. The register offices are now under the control of local authorities, the majority of which are run by Conservatives. For the Conservatives, Maria Miller, Shadow Minister for the Family, announced at both the 2008 and 2009 annual conferences that registrars would be asked to signpost couples to marriage preparation and relationship education programmes with the Local Government Association, who agreed. So far, some posters have been sent to Register Offices signposting couples to a website which does not even mention 'marriage' on the front page. From whichever angle - left or right - it looks like "gesture politics".
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"At present we are witnessing another monumental asset bubble in the making because you believe that you can solve our fiscal ills by encouraging spending. We are individually and corporately over-borrowed. Our culture of instant gratification is blowing up in our faces and rather than face facts you are advocating that we spend our way out of trouble." Is this not what the Archbishop of Canterbury is saying too? And being castigated for it? Is not "securitisation" just another way of "pulling down barns and building greater", and a dishonest one at that if you package up the mortgages of cohabiting couples with those who are married?
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Sally, you say, "how very wrong I believe it would be to return to the time when a divorce could only be granted if one party was found to be at fault." I agree, which is why I suggest we do [partly] as Patricia Morgan suggests "by ending ‘no-fault’, nonconsensual or unilateral divorce" and replacing it with divorce by mutual consent. Let the parties agree between themselves who is more or less at fault, and if they can't, they will have to settle for a legal separation until they do.
Toggle Commented Nov 24, 2009 on You have a right not to be married at CentreRight
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It is my understanding, Sally, that in the UK Jewish couples can only divorce by mutual consent. I think we should adopt that system generally - which also applies to Hindus in India - as it seems to work well. Only if a couple cannot reach mutual consent would a legal separation be imposed. I don't see why "a hotel room with a strange woman and be photographed with her there" should come into it.
Toggle Commented Nov 24, 2009 on You have a right not to be married at CentreRight
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I agree with the main points that Graeme Archer is making. However, I do not agree with him that "marriage ..... is a legal contract of obligation between consenting adults". It may be in some societies, but not here. Marriage is a covenant - or rather, two covenants - that are essentially very different from a contract, which is a commercial agreement with performance obligations on both parties. It is true that over many centuries in many societies there have been marriage contracts between families and couples, but in the UK we have adopted the marriage covenant as representing the highest form of mutual consent, free from pressures or specific obligations, excepting those contained in the covenant. In "The Facts Behind Cohabitation", the summary of her book, "Marriage Lite", Patricia Morgan says "Some people ... fear that getting married is a high risk gamble because no-fault divorce laws make it easier for a spouse to walk away from their commitment.... Marriage fundamentally changes the nature of a relationship, leading to many striking differences. The state could help strengthen the institution of marriage by ending ‘no-fault’, nonconsensual or unilateral divorce, and by introducing divorce settlements which penalise, rather than favour, the spouse who leaves or behaves badly." If divorce is only possible by mutual consent [the fall-back position being a legal separation], pre-nuptial agreements would not be required and "the spouse who leaves or behaves badly" could be penalised. Harry Benson is right to say, "Almost all of the increase in family breakdown since 1980 has been driven by the trend away from marriage (and not divorce) and towards unstable cohabitation." He is also on the right track with, "The law only requires the father to provide for the children until they reach sixteen. Make the father responsible for the mother as well and problem solved." However, separation "settlements which penalise, rather than favour, the [partner] who leaves or behaves badly" should apply as with married couples who separate.
Toggle Commented Nov 24, 2009 on You have a right not to be married at CentreRight
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Yes, of course, Tony, if you are a Good Samaritan, but if you are an MP or local councillor, it seems to me to be inevitable that your political perspective will influence your response, not least because you have to work with colleagues. We are fortunate to have good roads in this country on which we can drive - excepting the odd toll or congestion charge - without payment. However, we are obliged to pass a test, wear seat belts, maintain our cars properly, take out insurance and follow the Highway Code. If we don't we suffer fines, imprisonment, or being deprived of our licence. Couples can shack up, split up, produce feral kids, spend £4bn a year on lawyers etc. with few sanctions for the burdens they throw upon the state. I suggest we have got our priorities wrong.
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I don't see how need can be established outside political policy. But, thanks for the explanation.
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