Written evidence from David Clarke [HAB0132]
It is my opinion that marriage is better for society than cohabiting relationships and as such does not need the same privileges that marriage has. Marriage is better for children in that marriage is a more stable relationship than cohabitation and thus gives the children a more stable home life. Over 50 percent of children will suffer the separation of their parents in a cohabited relationship before they have reached the age of 5 whereas it is only 15 percent in married couples. Increasing the status of cohabiting couples will only exacerbate this problem.
Marriage is also better for ladies in that there are health benefits, both physical and mental, in it. Married ladies tend to smoke less and use fewer drugs than do cohabiting ladies.
I consider that marriage is an institution that should be encouraged by the government not undermined by increasing the legal status of cohabitation. After all family breakdown is very expensive for society costing the public purse around £50bn each year and break down in cohabitating relationships is greater than among married couples. After all married couples have made a commitment to each other which cohabiting couples have chosen not to make. At present most legal problems can still be dealt with by cohabiting couples, for example inheritance problems can simply be addressed by making a will.
I feel that any legal moves that the government makes to change the status of cohabitation will undermine the current value of marriage and only lead to a blurring of the benefits of marriage in the minds of the general public.