David Cameron

UK Prime Minister David Cameron is set to announce that immigrants will have to live in Britain for up to five years before they can qualify for social housing.

In a speech to be delivered on Monday 25 March, he will announce that councils will impose local residency tests when considering eligibility for social housing, meaning that those applying must have lived in an area for a minimum of two or up to five years before being placed on the waiting list.

Currently, councils have the option to impose residency tests, but many choose not to do so.

The speech is billed as an attempt to roll back the "something for nothing" culture that the Tories claim prevailed under the previous Labour government, and ensure that immigrants will only be able to draw on the social security system after making a contribution.

In order to protect UK residents who are obliged to move for reasons such as work or family breakdown, councils will retain the ability to allow exceptions, with such protection already being in place for members of the armed forces.

The prime minister is expected to claim that currently one in 10 social housing places goes to foreign nationals, the percentage having increased from 6.5 percent in 2007-2008 to 9 percent in 2010-2011.

The speech comes in the wake of the Eastleigh by-election in which the Tories slipped into third place behind the Liberal Democrats and Ukip; 55 percent of voters who cast their ballot for Nigel Farrage's Eurosceptic party said that immigration was their main concern, according to a recent survey.

The Lib Dems last week scrapped their proposal to allow immigrants who have lived in the country illegally for 10 years to claim citizenship, and opposition leader Ed Miliband has said that Labour "got it wrong" on immigration when they were in government.

Tory ministers have also proposed restricting immigrants' access to the NHS ahead of a feared influx of new arrivals from Romania and Bulgaria when restrictions are lifted, allowing residents of the countries to move freely across the EU.

Amidst rumours that he is one of several senior Tories mulling a leadership bid following plunging Tory poll ratings, London Mayor Boris Johnson distanced himself from his party's strident rhetoric on immigration.

Speaking on the BBC's Andrew Marr Show, he said: "I feel there is a great deal of antagonism towards immigrants in the country and I think it is reflecting a popular view.

"My solution is not to be hostile to people coming from around the world but to do more to help and to educate and to encourage people who grew up in this country and have been chronically failed by the system.

"The way to tackle the problem is to deal with the educational deficit we have in our country. "

The Bishop of Dudley, The Right Reverend David Walker, said that politicians' response to immigration was "wholly disproportionate".

The government has pledged to bring net immigration, or the difference between those coming into the country and those leaving it, down to below 100,000. Currently it stands at 163,000, down nearly a third in the three years since the coalition took power.