But they promised to introduce new measures intended to help people “unleash their talents”, from controlling the number of incoming migrants to reducing the burdens on small businesses.
“We knew the road ahead would be tough and so it has proved to be. But three years on, our resolve to turn our country around has never been stronger,” Cameron and Clegg said in a statement.
At the heart of the speech are measures intended to clamp down on illegal immigration and restrict migrants’ rights to unemployment, housing and health benefits, which Cameron first unveiled in March. “We want to attract people who will add to our national life and those who will not should be deterred,” a government spokesman said.
Cameron’s Conservative party came into office promising to dramatically reduce net migration, and claims to have already cut numbers by one third thanks largely to a tightening of the visa system. But immigration remains a major political issue ahead of an expected fresh influx of eastern Europeans after the European Union lifts work restrictions on Bulgarians and Romanians in 2014.