Immigration is a big issue, and was a main concern for voters during the election. After twelve years of Labour Government, the public had lost confidence in the immigration system. Net immigration had tripled since 1997, adding pressure on our public services. The sheer scale of immigration under Labour was too high.
I believe that Britain can benefit from immigration, but not uncontrolled immigration. The difference between Labour and the new Government is that we have pledged to get the immigration numbers substantially lower – from the hundreds of thousands to the tens of thousands. In just twelve weeks we have started to do that.
We have already introduced a temporary limit on the number of people coming here to work from outside the EU this year. This is the first immigration limit in our country’s history. It will be followed by a permanent annual limit, to ensure we get the right balance between the needs of business and the wider population.
And the new Government recognises that controlled immigration must be coupled with better skills for British workers and welfare reform. We should stop importing workers for jobs that British workers could be doing.
I’ve also announced that anyone who comes here to get married will have to speak English, and set out our plans to create a national border police force to tackle illegal immigration. These are all big changes. We are working hard to bring immigration under control.