Mandelson urges 'state dowry' for couples

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The Independent Online

Political Correspondent

A future Labour government should consider granting young couples interest- free loans up to pounds 5,000 as a "form of public dowry" to encourage marriage and the strengthening of family life, a key adviser to Tony Blair, the party leader, has suggested in a new book.

Peter Mandelson, MP for Hartlepool and chairman of Labour's elections campaign committee, floats the idea as a means of helping those who lack financial backing from parents, while urging that the family should be a "number one priority" so children can be raised knowing right from wrong, and a sense of "mutual obligation" is founded and practised.

The loan suggestion is canvassed in The Blair Revolution, co-authored with the former Liberal Democrat, Roger Liddle, which aims to lay out a broad intellectual backdrop to new Labour.

In the first extract of a Guardian serialisation today, the authors suggest that the loans would have to be subject to financial circumstances and a couple's marital commitment - though it could be extended to people who "for reasons of their own reject the form of marriage". They say: "Access to a lump sum of, say, pounds 5,000, would make an enormous difference at that stage of life. One option ... would be the provision of ... interest- free loans to young couples without access to capital - in effect a form of public dowry."