Home Secretary Theresa May is on a potential collision course with judges after she warned their powers to block the deportation of foreign criminals on human rights grounds must be curbed.
Mrs May said she would be seeking the backing of Parliament for new guidelines spelling out how the courts should apply the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) in such cases.
In particular, she said she would make clear the right to a family life enshrined in Article 8 of the convention, which has been used successfully by some criminals to appeal against removal from the country, was not absolute.
At the same time Mrs May set out new plans intended to crack down on sham marriages and prevent migrant spouses and their children coming into the country and claiming benefits.
Human rights lawyers warned ministers could not use guidelines to dictate the interpretation of the law to judges. However, Mrs May warned that if the judiciary did not heed the views of Parliament, she would introduce primary legislation to enforce its will.
In an interview with BBC1's The Andrew Marr Show, she accused the judges of not taking into account the wider public interest when applying Article 8 - even though they were entitled to do so under the terms of the ECHR.
"This is not an absolute right. So in the interests of the economy or of controlling migration or of public order - those sort of issues - the state has a right to qualify this right to a family life," she said.
"What I am going to do is actually set out the rules that say this is what Parliament, this is what the public, believe is how you balance the public interest against the individual's interest. We are going to ask Parliament to vote on this to say very clearly what constitutes the right to a family life. I would expect that judges will look at what Parliament will say and that they will take into account what Parliament has said."
However Geoffrey Robertson QC, a leading human rights lawyer, said Parliament could not "pre-determine" the outcome of individual cases which come before the courts.
"The Government cannot use subsidiary legislation like immigration rules to dictate to judges or to trump their interpretation of Article 8," he told The Sunday Times. "Parliament cannot pre-determine the results of individual cases which all depend on careful and compassionate assessment of very different facts. However merciless Mrs May may be, hard cases make bad law and politicians make bad judges."