Net migration figures 'little better than a guess'

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.

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Migration stats 'a best guess'

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.