We live in a fast-changing world – and government must change to meet the new challenges. Our immigration system is a very clear example.
In 1997 we inherited an immigration system with 80 different categories, a small and old-fashioned Immigration Service, and a paper-based system for recording entry and exit which the previous government had accepted was unworkable but had no plans to change.
This was a system which was clearly not ready to respond to the new global trends that were already evident. As these trends continued in our first few years in government, our first priority became to reform our asylum system to deal with the worldwide increase in asylum applications.
And as those reforms succeeded and numbers came down, our priority in the last two years, as I have set out, has been to reform our system of entry for working migrants.
The changes I have set out today – the new points-based system on entry, and the proposed points-based system for citizenship – amount to far more than a different mechanism for handling immigration. Together they constitute a fundamental reform of a decades old system – a reform founded on the British values of personal responsibility and civic duty.
They are aimed at ensuring our economy continues to attract and retain the highly skilled workers we need, whilst reinforcing the rights and responsibilities of newcomers, and the expectations society has of them at every stage.
They amount to a fundamental restatement of what we expect of those who aspire to British citizenship and how we intend to strengthen the idea of what it means to be British.
I am proud of my country – and I am proud to be British. For this is a country of diversity and yet solidarity; of different cultures and yet universal values. And we will always be a country that, whatever the challenges we face, can never be broken by anyone or anything.
For we will never compromise on the enduring British ideal that rights and opportunities will always be matched by clear responsibilities. Because that is what a Britain of fairness and responsibility means to me.
Taken from the Prime Minister's speech at Ealing Town hall in west London yesterday