Foreign nationals could soon have to take a test on British history before they are granted a UK passport after David Cameron set out moves to toughen up requirements for citizenship.
The Prime Minister appealed to the public to "shop" illegal immigrants and announced a drive against bogus marriages as he promised to "reclaim our borders". In a major speech on immigration, he said the Government would overhaul the structure of citizenship tests, which were introduced nine years ago by Labour, to give them a more traditional flavour.
"There's a whole chapter in the citizenship handbook on British history. But, incredibly, there are no questions on British history in the test," he said.
"Instead you'll find questions on the roles and powers of the main institutions of Europe and the benefits system within the UK. So we are going to revise the whole test and put British history and culture at the heart of it."
Mr Cameron has set his government the target of reducing net migration to Britain from "hundreds of thousands" to "tens of thousands" by the next general election. The figure for last year was a "staggering" 239,000, he told the Institute for Government in London.
Ministers believe a series of reforms to the visa system are already beginning to have an effect and the target can be achieved. Striking a note that could dismay his Liberal Democrat coalition partners, the Prime Minister said he wanted the Government to "go further and be even tougher" on immigration. He urged the whole country to play its part in tackling the issue by reporting suspected illegal immigrants to the authorities. He declared: "Together we will reclaim our borders and send illegal immigrants home."
Under moves set out by Mr Cameron yesterday, individuals applying to come to Britain for family reasons will have to demonstrate that they can speak English, have the means to support themselves as well as genuine family links in Britain. Families who want to sponsor overseas relatives to settle in Britain will have to post a financial bond worth thousands of pounds.
"We will make migrants wait longer, to show they really are in a genuine relationship before they can get settlement," Mr Cameron said. "We'll also impose stricter tests on the genuineness of a relationship, including the ability to speak the same language and to know each other's circumstances.
"We will also end the ridiculous situation where a registrar who knows a marriage is a sham still has to perform the ceremony."
Mr Cameron also confirmed that forcing someone to marry against their will could become a criminal offence. He said he had asked the Home Secretary, Theresa May, to consult on whether the practice should be outlawed in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Yvette Cooper MP, the shadow Home Secretary, said: "The Prime Minister needs to realise that making pledges and consistently failing to meet them undermines trust in the entire system."