Today the Conservative party has sent out a series of announcements around overseas marriages, aimed to end forced marriages. I think some are good and some miss the mark slightly.
1) Earlier this week they sent out this announcment.
The Conservatives have made the unprecedented offer of their own opposition time in the House of Commons to debate the Government’s Forced Marriage Bill. This is a House of Lords Private Members Bill which has been taken over by the Government. The Government has asked if the House of Commons could pass the Bill without debating it.
Commenting Shadow Home Affairs Minister, Damian Green, said: “This is a very important measure which we support. As it stands under normal Private Members Bill procedure if it is not given Government time it will either fall or go through un-debated. This issue is so important it is absolutely necessary for House of Commons to debate it and absolutely necessary that it is passed.
“This should be done in Government time. If the Government is unwilling to do this we will sacrifice Opposition Parliamentary time because stamping out forced marriage is so vital. Forced marriage is an evil practice which we should not tolerate in this country.”
2) Today they sent this out:
The Conservatives are announcing policies to stop very young brides or husbands being brought to this country from overseas. The Shadow Immigration Minister, Damian Green, today unveiled a three point plan designed to stop young people being brought to this country who cannot easily integrate with British Society. He also announced three other proposals on which the Conservative Party will be consulting. These proposals will apply to all non-European Union citizens.
The three definite policy proposals are:
a) Raising the age limit of potential spouses and sponsors to 21
b) Introducing an English test for spouses, to the level of ESOL Entry Level 3.
c) Developing a â€˜code of conductâ€™ for Entry Clearance Officers and Home Office officials in the UK, which includes separate interviews of the spouse and the sponsor.
The measures for consultation are:
d) Introducing the â€˜Life in the UKâ€™ citizenship test for spouses.
e) A prerequisite declaration of intention to marry abroad.
f) A time requirement before those who have been previously married to a spouse from overseas are allowed to bring in another spouse from overseas.
Commenting, Damian Green, said: “Too many young women are brought to England to marry when they cannot possibly integrate with our society. 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.
“For ten years this Government has done nothing to stop this abuse. We are proposing practical measures which will mean that only adults can come to this country to be married, and only those whose command of English allows them to play a full part in British life will be able to come to stay.”
They also sent out this docoument which explains their proposals a bit more.
My view is that some of the proposals are excellent, especially the one under consultation where a spouse has to make their own declaration that they intend to marry abroad. This was Sayeeda’s idea and it’s a good one because it will stop parents from whisking young girls to get married in the sub-continent without telling them.
The only problem I have with is for English language tests abroad rather than here. If the Tories are serious about empowering women, they should let the brides come here and then ensure they are taught English and tested on it. It is easy to fake tests results in South-Asia.
But I think the Tories are stingy and they don’t want to spend any money on English language classes here so they want to export the classes abroad. It won’t work. I wrote about this issue earlier this year when I made my documentary on overseas brides.
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