The Prime Minister made a speech on Tuesday morning putting pressure on other European premiers to offer a four-year benefit ban on EU migrants, but was taken to task by both economists and journalists for the source of some non-ONS-vetted stats.
Sam Coates, the Times' deputy political editor, penned a story in advance of this morning's address, which included claims by the PM that 43 per cent of EU migrants rely on the support of Britain's benefit system during their first four years of residence.
That figure was qualified by Downing Street in a note to journalists, but many took contention with the methodology of it - pointing out that it excluded international students, who themselves are included in the government's own net migration measurement.
Some 125,300 of these were classed in 2013/14 as 'EU migrants' by the Home Office, but are excluded from the figure touted by Downing Street today of 148,000, of whom it was claimed 66 per cent receive tax credits and other in-work benefits.
Coates posted a picture of the defended methodology behind Downing Street's newly-released numbers ahead of the speech today.
How did Number 10 produce new migrant figs to be uses by the PM today? Here is their methodological note. Thoughts? pic.twitter.com/vwf32JSfY5— Sam Coates Times (@SamCoatesTimes) November 10, 2015
Several of Fleet Street's finest and economists on social media piled in to rebuke Number 10 for not having the figures vetted by the official Office for National Statistics.
Jonathan Portes, a Senior Fellow at the National Institute of Social and Economic Research, claimed Cameron's stats were "impossible for me/ [the] Migration Observatory to verify".
A Press Association reporter, James Tapsfield, also weighed in, commenting: "Put 'DWP' and 'data' in the same sentence and you can pretty much guarantee there's going to be trouble."
@SamCoatesTimes Put "DWP" and "data" in the same sentence and you can pretty much guarantee there's going to be trouble— James Tapsfield (@JamesTapsfield) November 10, 2015
Other social media users, including BBC Newsnight's Chris Cook, also queried whether it was now Government policy to exclude students from migration data, given the Home Office includes them instead.
So you *can* exclude students from migration stats? Hmm. https://t.co/6jgWmsaPhq— Chris Cook (@xtophercook) November 10, 2015
@SamCoatesTimes so is it now government policy not to include students in migration statistics?— William Barter (@WJBarter) November 10, 2015
The Guardian's Patrick Wintour used diplomatic language and said the figures had been subject to "some curious adjustments and sources".
These interesting No 10 non-ONS figures on EU migrants claiming benefits have some curious adjustments and sources. https://t.co/IxeXBJUTzu— Patrick Wintour (@patrickwintour) November 10, 2015