Home Secretary John Reid has called for an end to the "politically correct" approach to the immigration issue, which views the situation primarily in terms of race.
Calling for a "mature discussion", Mr Reid said Britain must consider how it balances its need for the skills brought in by migrants with the requirement not to overburden schools and drive down the pay and conditions of homegrown workers.
"We have to get away from this daft so-called politically correct notion that anybody who wants to talk about immigration is somehow a racist," he said. "That isn't the case.
"People recognise that others from outside this country can bring great skills here, but they also want to be assured that our services - whether it's schools or hospitals - and indeed their own terms and conditions will be preserved and immigration will be managed.
"I want to change that culture so we can have that mature discussion."
Later this week, during a high-profile speech, he is expected to describe mass migration in a globalised world as the "greatest challenge facing European governments".
In an address to thinktank Demos on Wednesday, Mr Reid will argue that the mass movement of people provides the potential for greater wealth and opportunity.
But he will warn that it also brings insecurity into the heart of communities which had been used to the relatively settled international picture of the Cold War years.
Speaking yesterday, Mr Reid said that the blueprint for reform of the immigration and asylum system which he published last month - should provide reassurance for the public by introducing a system o f "managed migration" favouring incomers with useful skills.
He also highlighted his proposal, outlined in last month's paper, for an migration advisory committee to give the Government independent guidance on skills gaps in the UK economy which might be filled by migrants.
Mr Reid said the migration advisory committee would recommend an "optimum" level of migration which would be "beneficial in terms of enhancing the economy of this country commensurate with our social stability".
The independent body would prevent immigration levels being used as a "party political football" and would provide a clear indication that the Government was listening to public concerns, he said.
T he Home Secretary defended the Government's decision to allow people from new European Union states to work in the UK, which has seen hundreds of thousands of Poles and other eastern Europeans arrive in a hunt for jobs.
Polish plumbers, doctors and dentists have "brought a lot of skills and a lot of benefits" to the UK, said Mr Reid.
But he stopped short of saying whether similar rights to settle and work would be granted to would-be migrants from Romania and Bulgaria when they join the EU next year.
Reports have suggested that Mr Reid is wary of allow-ing free access to the UK job market to workers from these two states, both considerably poorer than most of the eight eastern European countries which joined the EU in 2004.
He said: "I think that most people recognise that when people came in from eastern Europe, they brought a lot of skills and a lot of benefits to this country.
"The Polish people who came here as doctors, dentists and plumbers have contributed a great deal but people also want reassurances. That's why we are going to bring in a system of managed migration."