Lords debates role of marriage in British society

11 February 2011

Chief executive of the couple and family relationships charity Relate, Baroness Tyler of Enfield made her maiden speech in the House of Lords on Thursday 10 February in a balloted debate on the role of marriage and marriage support in British society

The Bishop of Chester opened the debate – which took place during Marriage Week UK 2011 – and focused on progress made since the Hart Review of Funding for Marriage Support in 1999.

Baroness Tyler of Enfield 

Declaring an interest in the debate as Relate’s chief executive, Baroness Tyler of Enfield said the charity, which ‘fully recognises the reality of modern-day relationships’, was ‘optimistic about the future of marriage as a strong public manifestation of commitment’ which works well for many people.

‘What matters most is the quality of a relationship, rather than its formal status,’ Baroness Tyler said. Discussing their attitude to marriage, child-rearing, work-life balance and, in-laws, prepared engaged couples for ‘inevitable bumps along the road.’ Couples needed to be aware of ‘these pressure points, to know what support is out there, and to be encouraged to seek it early before things reach a crisis point.’

A Hart report for this decade might ‘usefully investigate how best to incentivise people into accessing relationship education and support before they commit to a relationship, particularly before they have children, as well as when they start to hit problems. Some people are now using light-touch relationship support—perhaps a befriending or mentoring arrangement—simply to maintain or to strengthen their relationship. It is a bit like taking your car to the garage annually for an MoT or having a regular check-up with the dentist. I should like to see that become the norm,’ she said.
A new report should also look at local and national funding for relationship support. Many local charities, including Relate centres, were facing a grim future as local authorities finalised their budgets. ‘For me, it is a matter of profound social justice that relationship support is available to all our fellow citizens, particularly the most disadvantaged and those on low income. High-quality relationships—we might call them happy relationships—lead to the best outcomes for adults and children,’ Baroness Tyler said. ‘Supporting marriage and relationships should and must mean supporting happy marriages, and making sure that support is there for couples to help them get back on track when they need it most.’

Lord Hill of Oareford responded on behalf of the government. 

Further information

Balloted debates

Five hours are set aside on one Thursday in each month for two balloted debates in the House of Lords. A balloted debate provides a forum to discuss a subject rather than decide on it.

This type of debate takes its name from how the subject for discussion is chosen – by randomly selecting from the topics proposed by Members of the Lords. The Clerk of the Parliaments carries this out.

Only Members on the back benches and cross benches can propose a topic for debate – known as tabling a motion.

Because the time limit for a balloted debate, the subject for debate must be narrow enough to discuss in that time. There are limits to speaking time for Members taking part. A schedule of speakers is usually available in advance.

Maiden speeches

The term ‘maiden speech’ refers to the first time a new Member gives a speech in the House of the Lords. A maiden speech usually takes place during a general debate and is uncontroversial.

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