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.
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.
More top news
Kirsty Williams successfully defended her Brecon seat, but her party lost four others in a disastrous night.
President Erdogan refuses to amend his country's terror laws in return for visa-free travel in Europe for his citizens.
A manhunt for a suspected fugitive gunman has ended after he handed himself in to police.