Clegg forced to clarify immigration figures gaffe

Nick Clegg was forced to issue an embarrassing clarification last night after suggesting that official predictions existed for how many Romanians and Bulgarians could come to the UK.

The Deputy Prime Minister said he had “seen estimates” of immigration after restrictions on the EU countries are lifted at the end of this year.

He also appeared to indicate that figures would be made public if they became “precise enough”.

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Mr Clegg’s comments – in response to a caller on his weekly radio phone-in – re-ignited speculation that was originally sparked by Communities Secretary Eric Pickles last month.

The Tory Minister claimed to have seen official forecasts, but refused to give details because he did not have confidence in them.

Downing Street and the Home Office have since insisted that no such information has been produced, and there would be no point doing so because it could not be reliable.

Mr Clegg yesterday attacked the Labour government for “bandying about” figures on immigration from Poland and the Czech Republic that turned out to be wrong.

A spokesman for the Liberal Democrat leader later said: “He was referring to the fact that there are estimates around – for example from Migration Watch – which he has seen but which he does not think are robust.”

Shadow Immigration Minister Chris Bryant said: “David Cameron’s Government is in a hopeless mess on estimates for the number of people coming from Bulgaria and Romania.”