Cameron: 'We should stigmatise feckless dads'

Fathers who abandon their families should be "stigmatised" by society in the same way as drink drivers, David Cameron has said.

The Prime Minister signalled a new onslaught on "runaway dads" saying they should be made to feel the "full force of shame" for their actions.

Writing in The Sunday Telegraph in an article to mark Father's Day he said it "simply isn't acceptable" for single mothers to be left to bring up their children on their own.

Mr Cameron also indicated his determination to introduce tax breaks for married couples - a Tory general election pledge which appeared to have been dropped by the coalition in the face of Liberal Democrat opposition.

"I want us to recognise marriage in the tax system so as a country we show we value commitment," he wrote.

He issued a strong defence of traditional family life - describing it as the "cornerstone of our society" and called for a new drive to "bring fathers back into the lives of all our children".

Even when parents were separated, he said, fathers had a duty to support "financially and emotionally" their children - spending time with them at weekends, attending nativity plays and taking an interest in their education.

Where men were unwilling to face up to their family obligations, Mr Cameron said that it was up to the rest of society to make clear that such behaviour was unacceptable.

"It's high time runaway dads were stigmatised, and the full force of shame was heaped upon them," he said.

"They should be looked at like drink drivers, people who are beyond the pale. They need the message rammed home to them, from every part of our culture, that what they're doing is wrong - that leaving single mothers, who do a heroic job against all odds, to fend for themselves simply isn't acceptable."

Mr Cameron also described how he learned his values from his own father, Ian Cameron, who died last year aged 77.

"From my father, I learned about responsibility. Seeing him get up before the crack of dawn to go and do a hard day's work and not come back until late at night had a profound impact on me," he said.

Shadow chancellor Ed Balls said that Mr Cameron's approach to the issue was "deeply flawed".

"Fathers should take their responsibilities seriously but he is charging mums when the father leaves now to go into the CSA (Child Support Agency)," he told BBC1's The Andrew Marr Show.

"He is going to make it harder with his marriage tax cut (which) will disadvantage the woman left behind and give the tax break to the father who goes off."