By Peter Dominczak, Daily Telegraph
David Cameron has pledged to make the UK the “toughest” country on benefits for foreign migrants.
In an interview with the Daily Express, the Prime Minister said he wants to ban migrants from being able to automatically receive legal aid in cases involving benefits, housing and other civil claims.
Mr Cameron this month said he want to completely overhaul the benefits system for migrants after saying that he believes the current system does not pass the “simple common sense test”.
The Prime Minister said he has asked Chris Grayling, the Justice Secretary, to create a new “residency test” designed to ensure migrants are not given instant access to legal aid in civil court cases.
Mr Cameron said: “We’re a fair country and a welcoming country, but not a soft touch. Let’s make sure that ours is the toughest country instead of the softest.”
“I think there is more we can do,” he added. “One of the aspects that we are reaching fairly early conclusion on is that we can no longer grant legal aid to non-UK nationals or for civil cases, people who are facing housing cases or benefit cases.
“We need a proper residency test for those cases and we’re going to consult on introducing one.”
He said he has told ministers to “tear up” their departmental briefs and come up with new and inventive ways to ensure the UK is not seen as a “soft touch” by migrants.
His comments came amid a growing debate about the numbers of new migrants preparing to come to the UK next year.
Twenty nine million Bulgarians and Romanians will gain the right to live and work unrestricted in Britain in 2014 under European “freedom of movement” rules.
The Home Office has repeatedly refused to put any number on the anticipated arrivals from Bulgaria and Romania.
Ministers are concerned about releasing the research into the possible number of arrivals, which they believe will be compared with a prediction that only 13,000 would move to Britain from Poland and other eastern European countries after 2004.
More than one million eastern Europeans then arrived in one of the biggest waves of immigration seen in the UK.
A report from MigrationWatch, a think tank, claimed that 50,000 people a year would arrive until 2019.
In the interview, Mr Cameron also rejected calls by disgruntled backbenchers to sack George Osborne, the Chancellor.
Mr Cameron said that Mr Osborne is “doing a great job in very difficult times”.