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.