George Osborne was left stumped today in Prime Minister’s Questions after being asked why refugee numbers were included in the Government’s migration target.
Labour’s Alison McGovern put the question to the Chancellor, who was at the Despatch Box in place of David Cameron who was on an overseas visit.
The Government has repeatedly missed its target of getting net migration to the UK below 100,000, with the figures in August showing it is running at a record high of 330,000 a year.
Currently, the number of refugees coming into the UK is included in that target.
Today, Ms McGovern referred back to when she had asked the Prime Minister why the categories were not separated in the autumn.
She said: “On the 7th September the Prime Minister told me that he could not remove refugees from the migration target because of the requirements of the Office for National Statistics.
“I wrote to the ONS and they told me in fact it would be possible. Will the Chancellor demonstrate that Britain will do its bit and remove refugees from the migration target?”
Mr Osborne consulted his front bench colleagues as he tried to discover the answer, which caused laughter from Labour MPs.
Rising to the Despatch Box, he quipped: “I’ll tell you something surprising. We talk to each other in this Government. The Cabinet actually get round and have meetings and discuss things and we agree and we move forward. They should try it in the Labour Party.”
Turning to the question, Mr Osborne said: “The Office for National Statistics is independent but Britain is doing its bit by taking the 20,000 refugees from the Syrian refugee camps and of course we have always provided a home to genuine asylum seekers.”
According to Home Office figures, there were 25,771 asylum applications in the year ending June 2015, up 10 per cent compared on the previous year (23,515).
The largest number of applications for asylum came from nationals of Eritrea (3,568), followed by Pakistan (2,302) and Syria (2,204).