Plans to limit the flow of Romanians and Bulgarians into the UK when their countries join the European Union will be announced early next week.

The two eastern European countries will join the EU in January, following in the footsteps of eight other countries, including Poland, which joined in 2004.

Britain was then one of only three countries to allow unrestricted access to residents from those countries.

The Government predicted that up to 13,000 residents from those countries would come to the UK each year, but so far up to 600,000 have arrived. Last month Mr Reid said entry to the UK by Romanians and Bulgarians was likely to be restricted when they joined the EU.

A Home Office spokesman said that the Government’s immigration strategy this time would involve a "gradual approach" to offering Romanians and Bulgarians access to the UK labour market. Those plans have not been finalised, he added. Reports yesterday suggest that Mr Reid will announce time-limited controls on the right of citizens from both countries to work in Britain.

While the UK will take a limited number of unskilled workers to carry out jobs like fruit-picking, Mr Reid is expected to say that it will not operate the same kind of "open-door" policy which has seen thousands of plumbers, builders and other workers arrive from Poland and the other new EU members.

The Home Office spokesman added that in the longer term, a migration advisory committee was to be set up to set annual quotas reflecting the numbers of workers needed by different sectors of industry and agriculture.

Conservative home affairs spokesman Damian Green said: "The Home Office has been leaking that they plan to put restrictions on Bulgaria and Romania roughly once a fortnight since the Conservatives called on them, in August, to take action. Our message now is ‘stop dithering’ and ‘get on with it’.

"We should have roughly the same policy as the other main European countries so that we only take in the people who will benefit our economy."