I very much agree with many of the sentiments that have been expressed in the Chamber tonight, but I wholeheartedly support my right hon. and learned Friend the Lord Chancellor in bringing this legislation forward. I want to explain why, with particular reference to the impact that conflict in relationships has on children. It seems to me that it is a fundamental tenet of the rule of law that it intends to ensure fair dealings between people, and where that is absent, that conflict is clearly going to have a much wider impact.
Department for Work and Pensions estimates show that currently 12% of all children, and as many as 21% of children in workless families, have parents who are in a distressed relationship. The Government’s national programme on reducing parental conflict has given many organisations, including some of those mentioned by my hon. Friend Andrew Selous, and the Early Intervention Foundation, the Association of Directors of Children’s Services and the Local Government Association, the opportunity to assess the impact on children of parental conflict—something hitherto little researched, but of increasing interest to local authorities that are the lead agency in supporting children in family breakdown situations.
When we look at the evidence garnered from this research, it is clear that the country’s divorce hotspots are not obviously linked to any other form of persistent social issue that we recognise. Those divorce hotspots across the country are represented by politicians of all colours, and they are areas both of great affluence and great poverty. That research demonstrates consistently, however, that the co-parenting relationships of the two adults are incredibly important for children’s outcomes in life. Whatever measures we can take in this House to support those co-parenting relationships, such as support for families and counselling where difficulties strike, are really significant.
The research also identifies that it is the conflict between the parents, rather than the break-up itself, that is most significant in the child’s experience and development. That is a crucial reason to support this Bill; when that decision is made, regardless of the issues that have been highlighted about the duration and the context of a relationship, the Bill makes it possible for separation to occur in a more civilised manner. That will enable the co-parenting relationship that supports those children’s life chances to be preserved intact as far as possible, and that should be a key concern for Members who are looking at the interests of future generations.