The Conservatives have thrust immigration into the heart of the next election campaign, promising a substantial cut in the numbers of migrants who are allowed into Britain.
David Davis, the shadow Home Secretary, reached out to the party's core vote with a promise to overhaul the "out-of-control" immigration system, reclaim the streets with zero-tolerance policing and reverse the "tide of social breakdown". He said he would scrap the national identity card scheme, using the money saved to build 1,200 more prison places, and introduce fresh programmes on drug addiction.
Mr Davis's tough words on immigration will be seen as an attempt to reassure traditional supporters anxious over the party's direction. They follow David Cameron's recent declaration that immigration had been too high over the past decade.
Ministers are aware of their vulnerability on the issue and hope it will not feature too prominently in a campaign that could begin within weeks. But Mr Davis told the conference: "I want to make it absolutely clear that immigration is a key issue for the next Conservative government."
He protested that the Government had presided over an "open door" policy that had allowed 700,000 east European migrants to travel to Britain after the EU expanded.
He set out a bleak vision of social decline in Britain, with growing levels of violent crime, drug abuse and family breakdown. But he added: "When I'm Home Secretary, the police will reclaim the streets, they will break up the gangs and they will enforce zero tolerance of all crime."
And Mr Davis said new drug treatment orders, which put the focus on total abstinence from drugs rather than managing addiction, would be introduced.