Conservatives plan to reduce cohabiting couples' rights

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Unmarried couples who live together would be denied rights married couples receive under a new Conservative plan. Pre-nuptial agreements would be made legally enforceable to encourage people to marry. The proposals, from the former Conservative leader Iain Duncan Smith, are set out in a report by his Centre for Social Justice. A rise in cohabitation is linked to family breakdown in the findings.

Divorce would also be made more difficult under the plan, with the state helping couples prepare for marriage and work through difficulties. The report hinted at raising the cost of divorce, suggesting that low cost led people not to work at saving a marriage.

Mr Duncan Smith, who advises David Cameron on social policy, said the case of Baby P was evidence of the "chaotic nature" of Britain's family life. He said: "Marriage acts as a stabiliser. Married couples are far less likely to break up than unmarried couples."

His comments drew fierce criticism. "Using provocative examples is very low and outrageous," said David Allison of the family law group Resolution.