Politics

Immigration minister reported to watchdog for ‘twisting’ data on Channel migrants

Immigration minister Robert Jenrick has been reported to the statistics watchdog after allegedly misleading MPs over migrants crossing the English Channel.

A letter to the UK Statistics Authority, which has previously rebuked Priti Patel and Boris Johnson about their representation of official figures, said data had been “used to justify” controversial new immigration laws.

The document, seen by The Independent, cited statements made by Mr Jenrick in the House of Commons and during media appearances earlier this month.

Addressed to statistics watchdog, Sir Robert Chote, it said Mr Jenrick had incorrectly told MPs there was “unprecedented strain on our asylum system” on 7 November, when the number of applications had peaked in 2002.

Home Office officials recently told a parliamentary committee that 93 per cent of boat arrivals claim asylum and of the decided applications from 2021, 85 per cent were granted.

Liberal Democrat peer Lord Paddick, a former senior Metropolitan Police officer, accused the recently appointed minister of overplaying the “significance of the number of Albanian immigrants coming to the UK” and characterising the majority of people crossing the English Channel on small boats as “economic migrants”.

“This government’s reckless rhetoric clearly does not reflect the reality of the asylum system,” he told The Independent.

“The Conservatives have had seven years in sole control of our borders, but have broken the system beyond recognition.

“We cannot allow vulnerable people to be left without hope because of the endless chaos and incompetence of this government.”

“The public has a right to always expect the government’s interpretation of data to be robust,” Lord Paddick wrote.

“This is even more important when that data is being used to justify new pieces of legislation as they pass through parliament.

“There must be no bias, spin or manipulation. However, I am concerned that these statistics may have been seriously twisted.”

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Earlier this year, Ms Patel was accused of misleading parliament with a series of false statements on Channel migrants but was not investigated for breaching the ministerial code.

While backing a major package of laws that criminalised small boat crossings, the then-home secretary repeatedly told MPs the majority of arrivals were “economic migrants”.

Her successor, Suella Braverman, was accused of stoking hate when she described Channel crossings as an “invasion” – a day after a far-right terror attack targeting a reception centre in Dover.

The Ministerial Code, which governs conduct and accountability, states: “It is of paramount importance that ministers give accurate and truthful information to parliament, correcting any inadvertent error at the earliest opportunity.

“Ministers who knowingly mislead parliament will be expected to offer their resignation to the prime minister.”

Clare Moseley, founder of refugee charity Care4Calais, said misinformation had become “commonplace” on Channel crossings.

She added: “It’s disgraceful that this false information, which has caused deep division in our nation, originates from our own government ministers.

“Parliament creates laws that determine the life and death of millions of ordinary people.”

If the UK Statistics Authority states that figures have been misrepresented, the government will be expected to formally correct the parliamentary record.

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