Conservative MP Alun Cairns told ITV News that a report on official migration statistics shows there is a significant margin for error in the way the data is collected.
He said: "We need to be confident the data is absolutely robust. The Government can be assessed on the trends, they can claim some sort of success, but to be confident about the absolute numbers on which this public policy is based we need to have more robust data."
Cairns suggested these measures:
- Home Office to collect more data and ensure data on Visas etc. is compatible
- Use e-Border controls more efficiently to ensure that that data is fed in
- Compare e-Border data with Office of National Statistics
- Compare e-Border data with information from overseas nations
Vince Cable said pursuing a net immigration figure was "not a Government objective" and would "not be helpful", after a report said official migration statistics were not fit for purpose.
The Business Secretary told the BBC's Andrew Marr Show:
There's this net immigration figure that the Conservatives are very preoccupied by, but it's not a Government objective.
Obsessing about a net immigration number is not helpful. The largest number of people counted as immigrants in the UK are overseas students. So the idea that you're pursuing a net immigration figure is very misleading.
– Vince Cable
We're not a totalitarian state, we don't count every single person. Actually it's quite difficult to be an illegal immigrant in the UK: you can't work, you can't have access to benefits. So the idea that there's some vast, hidden army of people is almost certainly completely wrong.
A new report slamming how migration figures are collated by the Home Office and the Office for National Statistics casts doubt over government claims that they have reduced net migration, the shadow immigration minister has said.
Chris Bryant added: "People want a bit of honesty on immigration, so the Home Secretary should look at how to measure immigration more accurately as a matter of urgency.
"Grand speeches, gimmicks and dodgy statistics don't cut much ice, especially when the government still don't even have a plan to count people in and out of the country.
"The system to count people out of the UK, e-borders, has been in development for years. The Home Secretary should make getting it online a top priority."
– Home Office spokesman
We disagree with the report's conclusions. Government reforms on immigration are working and the statistics do show that net migration is at its lowest level for a decade.
The Government is determined to build a fairer system and to address the public's concern about immigration. We are committed to getting net migration down from the hundreds of thousands to the tens of thousands, and we want to be judged against the very best available evidence.
Net migration is at its lowest level for a decade and the numbers have been steadily falling quarter by quarter.
Statistics produced by the Home Office and the Office for National Statistics are "blunt instruments" for measuring, managing, and understanding migration, a committee said today, after publishing a report suggesting that methods to collect migration figures were "not fit for purpose".
The Public Administration Select Committee said migration figures could be considerably improved if the Home Office and ONS properly recorded and linked the data they already gather. Committee chairman Bernard Jenkin said:
Most people would be utterly astonished to learn that there is no attempt to count people as they enter or leave the UK. They are amazed when they are told that government merely estimates that there are 500,000 immigrants coming into the UK each year.
This is based on random interviews of around 800,000 people stopped and interviewed at ports and airports each year. Only around 5,000 of those are actual migrants, many of whom may be reticent to give full and frank answers, to say the least.
As it is, the topline numbers for the Government's 100,000 'net migration' target are little better than a best guess - and could be out by tens of thousands. Clearly these statistics are not fit for purpose in the longer term.
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) migration estimates contain no information on the immigration status of migrants while statistics produced by the Home Office do not indicate the number of visa holders with valid leave to remain in the UK, a new report suggests.
Although the ONS, which uses the research to draw up its migration estimates, has "done its best" to produce informative statistics, the survey "is not fit for the purposes to which it is put" and ministers must find new ways to gather information, MPs said.
According to ONS figures earlier this year:
- In the year to June 2012, immigration was estimated at 515,000 while emigration was estimated at 352,000.
- Some 163,000 migrants came to the UK in the year to June 2012, down from 247,000 in the previous year.
- Some 117,000 immigrants from New Commonwealth countries arrived in the UK in the year to June, down 30%.
- A total of 62,000 immigrants arrived from countries which joined the EU in 2004, including Poland, the Czech Republic and Lithuania, down 27%.
Official migration statistics are "not fit for purpose" and leave assessments of the Government's progress in reducing net migration as "little better than a best guess", according to a scathing report.
Analysis on how many non-UK residents are entering and leaving the country is primarily based on "random interviews" of travellers at ports and airports that were introduced to examine tourism trends, the Public Administration Select Committee found.
Just 5,000 migrants a year are identified through the International Passenger Survey and many "may be reticent to give full and frank answers", it warned.