The former Prime Minister told an audience in Louisville, Kentucky, that governments had added to the problem by offering welfare instead of strong moral guidance. She lamented the fact that the number of children born out of wedlock had reached 31 per cent in Britain and in the United States.
Lady Thatcher said it was time that politicians dropped their mistaken belief that offering state aid was the solution. "We wanted to do our best for them and our best was to see that the young mother had a flat of her own, in the town where she lived and also an income to look after that child," she said. "In tackling the situation that way, we were unwittingly multiplying the number of people who had illegitimate children. Now we think it's better to put these children in the hands of a very good religious order, and the mother as well, so that they too will be brought up with family values."
Maeve Sherlock, of the National Council of One Parent Families, said Lady Thatcher was speaking like a figure from "another age". "Eighty years ago anyone who found themselves pregnant outside marriage was sent to the workhouse," she said. "The vast majority of lone parents have in fact been married and most single mothers don't choose to be so because they know how tough it is."