LETTER: Legislative change and lone parents

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The Independent Online
From Mr Julian Brazier, MP

Sir: Your leading article on John Redwood's speech about young unmarried mothers ("A legacy of disadvantage", 14 August) suggests that his recommendations barely differ from the status quo. That poses the obvious question as to why it has generated such an outburst from John Prescott and others. A single case from my own constituency postbag illustrates how far we actually are from the kind of sensible regime that John Redwood proposes.

In 1991, Julie (as I shall call her) ran away from her parents aged 15 with a 21-year-old boyfriend by whom she became pregnant. Her boyfriend was able to claim housing benefit for their accommodation. Julie's parents tell me that he beat her up regularly and supplemented his State benefits by using her for prostitution.

By the time the second child was on the way, and the couple had been allocated a council house by the local authority, the boyfriend had been sent to prison, convicted of 59 offences, most of them violent. On completing his sentence last September he returned, of course, to Julie, as she is now the proud possessor of a home on a good council estate that many couples who have waited many years would dearly love to occupy.

Had the Redwood dictum been applied, Julie would have been made to allow her parents to adopt her child (as they wished) and, whether or not she returned home, the second child would have been less likely to have been conceived. As it is, we have two children starting their lives under the most unpromising circumstances.

Furthermore, one of the couples who have long waited on our housing lists, and who could now be in a decent home, is not.

Your leader was right about the intentions of the legislators of the Sixties, Seventies and Eighties who brought us here, but wrong to underestimate the terrible damage their legacy continues to do. We need comprehensive legislative changes to achieve the arrangements that John Redwood proposes.

Yours faithfully,

Julian Brazier

MP for Canterbury (Con)

House of Commons

London, SW1

14 August