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Last Updated: Friday, 25 May 2007, 12:15 GMT 13:15 UK
Tories want marriage visa curbs
Arrest of a suspected sham wedding participant
Rules aimed at reducing "sham marriages" have been found unlawful
The Tories have pledged to raise the minimum age at which non-EU nationals can come to Britain to marry, to 21.

Shadow minister Damien Green said they should also pass an English test, to cut the number of young spouses unable to integrate into British society.

The government said the Tory plans mirrored its own proposals and they were just "catching up with our ideas".

A Tory spokesman said their plan was a firm policy and there was "no sign" of anything as concrete from Labour.

Under the Tory plans, prospective spouses, and their sponsors, would be interviewed separately by immigration officials.

'Not fair'

Mr Green said: "Too many young women are brought to England to marry when they cannot possibly integrate with our society.

I am very pleased that others are catching up with our ideas
Liam Byrne
Immigration minister

"They need better protection. It is not fair on them, and it is not good their integration into this country.

"Families where English is not spoken are much more likely to have children who struggle at school, and adults who cannot engage in work."

He said the party would be consulting on other measures, including a requirement for British citizens seeking to marry abroad to give the Home Office up to six months' notice of their plans.

The aim is to stop young girls being taken abroad under false pretences and forced into marriage.

The Tories are also considering a time limit of five or ten years before people who have previously married a foreign national, can bring in another spouse.

New wives

The party says it would reduce the number of men who marry British women, then leave them and bring over a new wife from abroad.

Mr Green said the government had failed to tackle "abuse" of the spouse visa system.

But immigration minister Liam Byrne said the Tories were restating the government's ideas.

"In March I published proposals to tighten the rules on marriage visas by raising the minimum age of sponsors and the person sponsored to 21, alongside the introduction of an English language test before entry," he said.

"I am very pleased that others are catching up with our ideas, set out fully in the government's Borders and Immigration Strategy."

He added that the government was "determined to tackle abuse of the rules and the issue of forced marriage".

On Wednesday, the Court of Appeal ruled that controversial new rules aimed at reducing "sham marriages", were unlawful and discriminatory.

They required anyone who was not legally permanently settled in the UK to seek special permission to marry, irrespective of the status of their partner.

Danny Sriskandarajah, of the Institute for Public Policy Research, told the Evening Standard the Tories' proposals could also fall foul of the courts, on racial discrimination grounds.


SEE ALSO
Sham marriage network gang jailed
17 Jan 05 |  Leicestershire

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