RISHI Sunak’s claim that ministers have “cleared” the asylum backlog is being investigated by the official statistics watchdog after allegations from opponents that it is a “barefaced lie”.

The UK Statistics Authority said it was looking into the announcement as more than 4500 “legacy” cases remained outstanding, despite ministers claiming they had succeeded.

Sunak was accused of “playing fast and loose” with its claims about reducing the migration backlog and also faced accusations from Labour that his claim was a “barefaced lie”.

In a major pledge, the Prime Minister promised to clear the backlog of the 92,000 cases of people who had claimed asylum before July last year but were still awaiting an initial decision.

The Home Office said on Tuesday that the “commitment of clearing the legacy asylum backlog has been delivered”, with a similar wording repeated by the Prime Minister.

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“I said that this government would clear the backlog of asylum decisions by the end of 2023,” Sunak wrote on social media site X, formerly Twitter.

“That’s exactly what we’ve done.”

But figures published by the Home Office showed that 4537 complex legacy applications were still “awaiting an initial decision” as of December 28.

The statistics watchdog confirmed that its regulatory arm, the Office for Statistics Regulation (OSR), would scrutinise the claim.

“I can confirm the OSR is looking into the Government’s announcement yesterday,” a spokesperson said.

The National: Rishi Sunak

Labour’s shadow immigration minister Stephen Kinnock was among those to have criticised the Government’s claim.

“The Prime Minister’s barefaced lie that he has cleared the asylum backlog would be laughable if it wasn’t such an insult to the public’s intelligence,” Kinnock wrote on social media.

The chairman of the UK Statistics Authority Sir Robert Chote last month challenged Sunak’s claims to have reduced public debt.

Chote said his claims on social media that “debt is falling” and that “we have indeed reduced debt” at Prime Minister’s Questions were misleading.

Reducing debt was one of Sunak’s five promises he made to the nation, as was “stopping the boats”.

Apart from the one to halve inflation, which experts say the UK Government has had little to do with, the Prime Minister has been struggling to achieve his core pledges.