Right of Reply: Jack Straw

The Home Secretary responds to our criticism of his Green Paper on the family

WHY HAS the Government chosen to launch a debate on family values, The Independent asked. The simple answer is: we haven't. The consultation paper on the family is not about values. It is about practical support for families, all families.

Nor do we moralise or issue edicts on personal relationships. We are not interested in lecturing. It is not the business of government to pressurise people into one type of relationship.

Good families come in all shapes and sizes and they all deserve, and will get, our support. But The Independent recognises that a child living with two caring parents will benefit from the stability and attention they receive.

As the evidence shows that this stability is most likely if the parents are married, it must make sense to support those who want to marry by helping them prepare better for life together and offering help when things get difficult. There is nothing illogical about this.

The Independent recognises that families under most stress are those on low incomes. We not only agree but are doing something about it.

Child benefit has been increased by the largest-ever amount with extra help for those who need it most. The working families tax credit and minimum wage are being introduced. The last budget increased by pounds 10 a week income for the 20 per cent of poorest families in our country.

All families will also benefit from the extra pounds 40bn to be invested in our schools and hospitals. But those families who need greatest support will receive it through our pounds 540 million Sure Start programme to ensure their children get the best possible start in life - exactly the type of real help, not slogans, The Independent rightly demands.

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