Not only do I support it, but I think my name is on it. My proposal will help to create greater stability, with the ultimate aim of giving the 2.2 million children in such relationships the very best opportunities and the best start in life.
The Centre for Social Justice has calculated that the cost of family breakdown to this country is some £48 billion a year, or some 2.5% of gross domestic product. That is a big and growing problem, which is socially and financially costly for our society. Fewer than one in 10 married parents have split up by the time their child reaches the age of five, compared with more than one in three of those who are cohabiting but not married, and 75% of family breakdowns involving children under five result from the separation of unmarried parents. The CSJ has produced a raft of statistics showing that a child who is not in a two-parent family is much more likely to fall out of school, to become addicted to drugs, to get into trouble with the law, to be homeless and not to be in employment, education or training. Let me be clear: that is not to be judgmental about parents who find themselves, through no fault of their own, having to bring up a child alone, but two partners make for greater stability.
We know that marriage works, but civil partnerships are also showing evidence of providing greater stability for same-sex couples, including those who have children through adoption, surrogacy or whatever means. There is a strong case for believing that extending civil partnerships would improve that stability for many more families in different ways. If just one in 10 cohabiting opposite-sex couples entered into a civil partnership, that would amount to more than 300,000 couples and their children. The extension of civil partnerships would offer the prospect of greater security and stability, lower likelihood of family breakdown, and better social and financial outcomes. That, surely, would be progress.
Understandably, some people will ask, “Why can those couples not just get married?” People choose not to get involved in the paraphernalia of formal marriage for a variety of reasons. For some, it is too much of an establishment thing to do. Many identify marriage as an innately religious institution, and even if it is done in a registry office, it still has religious connotations. Some see marriage as having a patriarchal side, and some see it as a form of social control. For others, it is rather expensive. Marriage is not seen as a genuine partnership of equals, as civil partnerships are. Those are not my views, but they represent how many people see marriage. Many people have lobbied me—I am sure that they have done the same to other hon. Members—about why they would like to take advantage of the opportunity to enter into a civil partnership, and why they have not got married.