Legal challenge to immigration cap

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The Government faces a legal challenge over its temporary immigration cap, lawyers said today.

The Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI) claims the Government side-stepped the proper parliamentary process when it brought in the interim cap in June and has launched a judicial review, asking judges to declare the cap unlawful.

The cap was brought in to prevent a "surge in applications" from skilled migrants from outside Europe while the Government considers the level for its permanent cap, which will be introduced next year.

The Court of Appeal ruled earlier this year that the Home Secretary acted unlawfully when changes were made to the points-based system without proper parliamentary approval.

JCWI's lawyer Shahram Taghavi, of Simons Muirhead and Burton, said he was "surprised to see that, despite that ruling, the Secretary of State has again sought to avoid parliamentary scrutiny on such an important change to British immigration laws, a change which, unusually, also impacts upon British businesses".

He added: "The coalition Government has once again sought to rush through significant changes to the United Kingdom's immigration laws while side-stepping proper parliamentary process."

Habib Rahman, JCWI chief executive, said it was "very concerned about the immense damage the interim cap appears to already be doing to British businesses".

Immigration Minister Damian Green said: "We will rigorously defend this challenge and are confident of success.

"The Government has been clear, we will introduce our permanent annual limit on economic migrants from outside the EU from April 2011.

"While we decide how the annual limit should operate it is imperative that we have interim measures in place to avoid a rush of applications from migrants before the new rules take effect."

The Government wants to reduce the level of net migration back down to the levels of the 1990s - tens of thousands rather than hundreds of thousands, he said.

The case is expected to he heard by the High Court next month, lawyers for the JCWI said.