Three months ago, David Cameron told the House of Commons that the government was unable to take refugees out of its migration target, and blamed the way the Office for National Statistics calculates the figure. But a Labour MP has now proved the prime minister wrong – by asking the very organisation he referenced.
Responding to a request from Alison McGovern on 7 September to take refugees out of the migration target, David Cameron said: "The point about the migration target is that the Office for National Statistics has calculated migration figures in the same way for many, many years. It includes refugees as well as other migrants."
But during Prime Minister's Questions on Wednesday, McGovern revealed she had emailed the ONS and the independent body told her it did not have to include refugee numbers in the official target.
"On 7 September the prime minister told me that he could not remove refugees from the migration target because of the requirements of the ONS," the MP for Wirral South told chancellor George Osborne, who was standing in for Cameron while the PM is abroad.
"So I wrote to the ONS and they told me it would be possible. So will the chancellor demonstrate that Britain will do its bit and remove refugees from the migration target?"
Osborne refused to say whether the government would change its stance, instead insisting: "Britain is doing its bit."
He said: "The ONS is independent but Britain is doing its bit by taking 20,000 refugees from Syrian refugee camps, and we have always given a house to genuine asylum-seekers."
During a debate in September about the refugee crisis, a number of MPs suggested the government should remove refugees from the UK migration target.
Cameron and the Conservatives have consistently been criticised by UKIP for failing to hit the target of net migration below 100,000 that the prime minister set in 2010.
BuzzFeed News obtained a copy of the letter McGovern sent to the director general of the ONS in September.
Siraj Datoo is a political reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.
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