Occasionally constituents will come and give me a piece of their mind about how the country should be run, but that is rare.
During a typical ‘surgery’ constituents will, more often than not, come to see if I can help resolve their problems.
The problem in question might be to do with housing. It might be a family in bed and breakfast accommodation; or a house that is too small for their needs; or damp, or next door to unsuitable neighbours.
They might come and see me because they are in debt.
Or it might be that there is a problem with schooling, being unable to manage the journey to the allocated school place, or problems with behaviour or attainment at school.
Or it might be problems with social security benefits leaving them unable to make ends meet and having to rely on food banks.
Or it might arise from problems with payments from a former partner for maintenance of their children, or perhaps access to the children being improperly denied by one of the partners.
However the problem presents, scratch the surface, and nine times out of ten the root cause is family breakdown. It is the swiftest way to poverty and it is of epidemic proportions, costing us billions of pounds in dealing with the social consequences.
For children under 12 we are judged to have the most volatile family circumstances in the developed world. More than half our sixteen-year-olds no longer have a father living in the home.
Marriage is not perfect, no human institution can be given our fallen nature. Yet it is the most stable of social arrangements that we possess: For children whose parents marry, those parents are more likely to remain together throughout their childhood by a factor of two thirds, as compared to those children whose parents choose not to marry.
Arguably any number of government policies impact to the disadvantage of marriage.
Currently the Department of Education is consulting on how marriage should be treated in our education system, to which end I met the new Secretary of State last week. Notwithstanding the huge social problems that we face it would appear that ministers are reluctant to robustly defend marriage for fear of appearing ‘judgemental’. It seems to me, given the magnitude of the social problem, that there is a proper judgement to be made.
In his response to a debate a fortnight ago, the Minister for the Cabinet Office told us that ‘families come in many shapes and sizes’. I asked him just exactly how many, and if a family was just any collection of people who happen to share a fridge?