Vince Cable admitted today there was a "debate" in the Cabinet about the Government's plans for a cap on immigration.
While insisting there was "no conflict" between coalition ministers, the Liberal Democrat Business Secretary said he was pressing for a light-touch regime.
Downing Street aides also moved to quash suggestions of a rift over the move to impose a limit on non-EU immigrants coming to the UK.
The issue was threatening to overshadow a major British trade delegation to India, led by David Cameron and featuring Mr Cable among other senior ministers.
Speaking to reporters in Bangalore this morning, the Business Secretary said he was committed to the proposed cap set out in the Tory-Lib Dem coalition agreement.
"But there clearly is a debate taking place," he went on.
Mr Cameron today said it was "perfectly legitimate" for Mr Cable to make the case for immigration's economic benefits, but that the policy on a cap has been settled by Cabinet.
It is open for the Indian government or businesses to make submissions to the consultation currently being conducted on the level of the cap, he said.
The Prime Minister told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "I think we need to control immigration more effectively in Britain. I do want a cap.
"We have signed the coalition agreement which is very frank about controlling immigration and the need for an immigration cap. That's what the coalition agreement says and Vince Cable was talking about that this morning.
"This Government is taking government off the sofa and putting it round the Cabinet table.
"It is perfectly legitimate for the Business Secretary to argue for the advantages of free and open markets and that is what Vince does. But we decide these things in the Cabinet in a reasonable and sensible way."
Asked if he would listen to Indian concerns over the ability of professionals to continue to come to work in Britain, Mr Cameron said: "We have announced a process, there is a consultation under way which will complete in September.
"Everyone is free - the Indian government and businesses included - to make their arguments about how high the cap should be."Reuse content