By STEVE DOUGHTY
The proportion of people getting married is now the lowest since records began in 1862
The number of Britons tying the knot has collapsed to a record low, it has emerged.
The proportion of men and women getting married is below any level found since figures were first kept nearly 150 years ago.
And the number of weddings held in 2006 was the smallest since 1895, when the population was little more than half its present level.
The evidence that marriage is withering away at an increasing pace was met with a furious response from critics of… benefits system, which disregards the status of husbands and wives and pays parents extra to stay single.
Shadow Home Secretary David Davis claimed the Government had “fuelled family breakdown” ..
The figures, from the Office for National Statistics, said that in 2006, fewer than ten in every 1,000 [1%] single adults in England and Wales were married.
When marriage-rates were first calculated in 1862 the level was 58.7 for men and 50 for women.
Even during the world war years marriage rates for women never dropped below 40 in 1,000. They fell below 30 for the first time in 1995.
The raw numbers of weddings in the figures for 2006 also tell the dramatic story.
There were 236,980 marriages, the fewest since 228,204 were recorded in 1895…
In 1895, there were around 30 million people in England and Wales compared with more than 54 million now.
The general decline of marriage has been under way since 1972 when there were 426,000 weddings and marriage rates were more than 78 in 1,000 for men and 60 for women.
The age of first-time brides and bridegrooms is continuing to increase. Women are nearly 30 while the man is almost 32.
Advantages for married couples have gradually been withdrawn, joint taxation-ended in the 1980s and Gordon Brown withdrew the last tax break for couples, the Married Couples Allowance, shortly after Labour came to power in 1997.
Benefits such as tax credits now favour individuals living with children rather than couples and the bias against couples is thought to have contributed to the growing numbers “living apart together”.
Around a million couples are thought to consider themselves an item but to remain living in separate homes.
…family policy has for a decade maintained that all kinds of families are equally valuable and ministers have campaigned for all references to marriage to be removed from state documents.
David Davis said: “This is a sad indictment of the Government’s policies which have penalised families and fuelled family breakdown.
“Stable families are the best formula for bringing up children and preventing delinquency, anti-social behaviour and crime.
“So a failed family policy is itself a major cause of crime.”
Researcher and author Mrs Morgan said: “I have been reading the Children’s Plan put out by Children’s Secretary Ed Balls last year.
“It does not mention marriage once.
“This Government has removed the idea of marriage from research and public documents and from the tax and benefit system.
“It has taken the last remaining benefits, like inheritance tax relief when a spouse dies, and given them to other groups like homosexuals in civil partnerships.”