The speech is worth reading, if only because Cameron details some of the rorts in the system. Parts of the speech I found most interesting include these excerpts:
...there's no doubt that badly controlled immigration has compounded the failure of our welfare system and allowed governments and employers to carry on with the waste of people stuck on welfare when they should be working.
...the very term "Points Based System" has proved to be misleading. The rhetoric implies that each and every potential migrant is carefully and individually assessed with only those scoring the most points able to enter the country. But the reality was very different. Instead of a system of points for individuals there were a range of low minimum thresholds where anyone who met them was automatically entitled to come, almost on a self-selection basis, to work and study and in many cases bring dependants.
...The reality was that someone with a modest salary and a Bachelor's degree in any subject from any college in the world could come over here and do any job they liked. And of course the system was a magnet for fraudsters. Plenty never found work at all. One study showed that about a third of those sampled only found low skilled roles working as shop assistants, in takeaways and as security guards.
...Take the next tier - Tier 2, for migrants coming here who actually did have job offers. Large numbers of this group were actually coming to do low-level work which many people have rightly felt those on welfare should be trained for but which instead went to migrants.
...It's a system where migrants got the choice to come, rather than us having the choice of migrants. And it's a system which was totally unfair which people rightly feel added to the sense that "something for nothing" was the order of the day.
...In April we introduced a limit on the number of economic migrants able to come to the UK from outside the European Economic Area. Many predicted that this wouldn't work and that it would stop British businesses getting the workers they need. But the evidence shows this just hasn't been the case. That limit of 20,700 for the year - has been undersubscribed each and every month since it was introduced with businesses currently using less than half of their monthly quotas.
...around two-thirds of the increase in employment since 1997, was accounted for by foreign-born workers. Even now people are managing to come to the UK and find a job. Yet throughout all of those years we consistently had between 4 and 5 million people on out of work benefits. You can understand it from the employer's point of view. Confronted by a failing welfare system, shortcomings in our education system and an open door immigration system they can choose between a disillusioned and demotivated person on benefits here in the UK or an Eastern European with the get up and go to come across a continent to find work. Or they can choose between an inexperienced school leaver here or someone five years older coming to Britain with the experience they need. But that situation is simply not good enough. We have to change things.
...when it comes to bogus colleges and bogus students we have to be equally clear: they have no place in our country. In June last year in New Delhi, for example, more than a third of student applications verified by the visa section were found to contain forged documents. Private colleges now have to face far more rigorous checks on the quality of their education provision before they can sponsor international students. Since May 2010 the UK Border Agency has revoked the licences of 97 education providers. A further 36 currently have their licences suspended.
...A sample of more than 500 family migration cases found that over 70 per cent of UK-based sponsors had post-tax earnings of less than £20,000 a year. When the income level of the sponsor is this low, there is an obvious risk that the migrants and their family will become a significant burden on the welfare system and the taxpayer. So we have asked the Migration Advisory Committee to look at the case for increasing the minimum level for appropriate maintenance.
...We're also consulting on how to tackle abuse of the system, to make sure that family migrants who come here are in a genuine relationship with their partner. Time and again, visa officers receive applications from spouses or partners sponsoring another spouse or partner soon after being granted settlement in the UK suggesting that the original marriage or partnership was a sham simply designed to get them permanent residence here.
...If we take the steps set out today and deal with the all the different avenues of migration, legal and illegal then levels of immigration can return to where they were in the 1980s and 90s - a time when immigration was not a front rank political issue. And I believe that will mean net migration to this country will be in the order of tens of thousands each year, not the hundreds of thousands every year that we have seen over the last decade.
Cameron seems to be genuinely set against open borders. Why the break with open borders orthodoxy?
There are several possibilities. He might, for instance, be trying to win back ground from the BNP. It could be, too, that this is part of his concern about "Broken Britain" - that he doesn't want the further growth of an unemployed underclass.
Right-liberals are often focused on economic criteria, and it might be that Cameron believes it is more economically rational to orient immigration to those who are going to contribute most economically; he does in his speech talk about "getting the right people we need for our economy".
So arguments about the economy and social cohesion seem to have led him to reject an uncontrolled, open borders approach to immigration.
Most of Cameron's policies so far have been disappointingly liberal, but it could be that he does present a genuine alternative to the Labour Party on this important issue. The real test will be whether he really can bring immigration numbers down to the levels of the 1980s.