The prime minister will make a keynote intervention on social housing and benefits by insisting councils use their powers to impose local residency tests (Picture: AP)

Immigrant families will be kept off council house waiting lists for up to five years as part of a crackdown on Britain’s ‘culture of something for nothing’, David Cameron is set to announce.

The prime minister will tomorrow set out a tougher approach on housing and benefits in what is being billed as a landmark speech.

The new ‘get-tough’ approach is seen as a deliberate appeal to his party’s right wing following the Eastleigh by-election where the Conservatives were beaten into third place  and immigration emerged as a key voter concern.

Councils currently have powers to impose local residency tests for social housing, but ministers are frustrated that only about half do so.

Arguing that Britain became a ‘soft touch’ for immigrants under Labour, Mr Cameron will announce that statutory guidance is being issued.

Local authorities will have to introduce minimum residency times of between two and five years for joining waiting lists – or justify why they are not.

Concerns have been rising of an influx from Bulgaria and Romania when movement restrictions are loosened at the end of this year.

Research for the Department for Communities and Local Government has suggested only about 13,000 will arrive from the two countries but communities secretary Eric Pickles said this week that he had ‘no confidence’ in the figures.

Migration Watch UK, which wants tougher controls on immigration, estimates 250,000 Romanians and Bulgarians will move to Britain in the first five years after restrictions are lifted.

The prime minister is likely to cite figures in his speech showing that nearly one in ten new social lettings go to foreign nationals. The proportion has risen from 6.5 per cent in 2007-08 to nine per cent in 2011-12.

‘We want to ensure we remove any expectation that new migrants can expect the British taxpayer to give them a home on arrival,’ sources close to Mr Cameron said.

Mr Cameron is expected to use his speech to reassert his commitment to reduce net migration – the difference between people coming to Britain and those leaving it – to below 100,000. Latest annual figures put it at 163,000, down almost a third since the coalition came to power in 2010.

Conservative MP Stewart Jackson said of the PM: ‘He needs to make the point that people will only be welcome if they make a positive financial contribution and, if they’re welfare tourists, they won’t be.’

Backbencher Priti Patel said tough rhetoric on immigration was necessary to ‘win back public confidence’.

Ministers are also studying plans to take fingerprints and other biometric details from Romanian and Bulgarian immigrants.

Deputy prime minister Nick Clegg yesterday performed a U-turn by abandoning the Liberal Democrats’ controversial policy of ‘earned citizenship’, which would allow illegal immigrants to stay once they have been in the country for more than ten years. He said such a move now risked ‘undermining public confidence’.

The Bishop of Dudley, David Walker, said politicians’ response to immigration was ‘wholly disproportionate’.

He said: ‘Public fears around immigration are like fears around crime. They bear little relationship to the actual reality.’

The bishop, who served on the board of the National Housing Federation and is a former chairman of South Yorkshire Housing Association, said: ‘The tone of the current debate suggests that it is better for ten people with a legitimate reason for coming to this country to be refused entry than for one person to get in who has no good cause.

‘Studies show that the vast majority of new arrivals to the UK enhance and enrich our society, both economically and culturally.’

Earlier this month Labour leader Ed Miliband used a party political broadcast to say that his party had ‘got it wrong’ on the issue when in power.

He said Labour ministers should have imposed transitional controls on migration from eastern Europe, adding that they were wrong to dismiss voters’ concerns on the subject.

He argued that ‘low-skill migration is too high and we need to bring it down’, but he has shied away from following the Tories in proposing to crack down on the ready availability of benefits to migrants, preferring to concentrate on moves against rogue employers using migrant labour to undercut British workers.

Immigrant families to be banned from housing waiting lists for up to five years … – Metro
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