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Immigration cap worries businesses

The government's proposal to limit the number of skilled workers coming to the UK from outside of the EU has prompted concerns among the business community.

An interim cap was set in place on 19 July, and a permanent ceiling is to be introduced next April.

The temporary cap limits the number of visas for the most highly skilled workers in Tier 1 to 5,400 - the same levels as 2009. Tier 2 workers - skilled migrants who fulfil a specific UK job offer - will be reduced by 1,300 to 18,700 over the next nine months.

Lady Valentine of London First, a lobby group representing many larger companies, described the measures as "economically insane" and said that the "cap is not good for companies or British workers whose jobs depend on the business these international highflyers could bring".

The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) voiced worries that many firms could be penalised by the cap if they found themselves unable to recruit the right people from within the UK.

Adam Marshall of the BCC commented: "A specialist engineer takes five years to train up, and [some firms] just can't wait."

However, Damian Green, the immigration minister, countered by saying that the issue had been "distorted as though no skilled person will ever be able to come to Britain to work, and of course that's not true".

Mr Green continued: "We are specifically designing a system that will allow us to have the brightest and the best from around the world, but what as a society we can't continue to do is have that going on in the same numbers that we had under the previous government. And it will require adjustment on all sides."