Cameron takes first step toward criminalising forced marriages

By Ian Dunt

David Cameron took the first step towards criminalising forced marriages today with a pledge to fully enforce prevention orders under the law.

In a speech announcing a raft of tough new immigration rules, the prime minister confirmed he has asked the home secretary to consult on making forcing someone to marry an offence in its own right.

The consultation is designed to ensure that criminalisation does not deter vulnerable women from reporting what is happening.

"Forced marriage is little more than slavery," Mr Cameron said.

"To force someone into marriage is completely wrong. And I strongly believe this is a problem we should not shy away from addressing."

The announcement means that full criminal law will now come to bear on anyone breaching a forced marriage court order – a mechanism introduced by Labour in 2007.

The speech also contained details of new rules to help the government achieve Mr Cameron's objective of getting immigration down to the tens of thousands.

Family of people with the right to live in the UK will face tougher tests of their income and language.

The Migration Advisory Committee has been asked to look at increasing the minimum level for maintenance and ministers are considering discounting promises of support from family and friends from the decision process.

There may also be more searching assessments of whether relationships are genuine.

Reports suggest that Mr Cameron backed down on plans to ask businesses to list how many immigrants they were employing.