Children of married parents 'to be minority'
MOST children in England and Wales will be born out of wedlock within three years because of the decline in marriage, according to official figures.
The proportion of children born to unmarried mothers in England and Wales hit a record 47.5pc last year, according to figures released by the Office for National Statistics yesterday.
The figure has risen from 25pc in 1988 and just 11pc in 1979.
At the current rate of increase, by 2016 more than half of children born each year will be to unmarried parents.
Conservative MPs and experts warned that the stark decline of marriage is likely to lead to more family breakdowns and damage children's pros- pects.
Tim Loughton, the former Children's minister, called on the government to introduce tax breaks for married couples to help stop the decline.
He said: "If people are prepared to make a public declaration to each other in front of their friends and family they are more likely to stay together. Without marriage people drift in and out of relationships very easily.
"In families where parents break up children do less well at school, are more likely to suffer mental health problems and are more likely to have substance abuse problems.
"The government needs to send a very clear message that it supports marriage. That's why married tax breaks are so important."
David Cameron has pledged to introduce legislation to give couples tax breaks worth £150 (€174) by the end of the year.
The UK prime minister has been forced to put a timetable on government plans to recognise marriage in the tax system amid growing Conservative unrest over the failure to act.
Meanwhile, the official figures show that 729,674 children were born in England and Wales in 2012, the highest number since 1971.
Mothers now have an average of two children each, a record level. (©Daily Telegraph London)