THE UK Government has been scolded by the statistics watchdog after falsely claiming to have cleared the asylum backlog.

UK Statistics Authority chairman Sir Robert Chote said the “episode may affect public trust” as he outlined the findings of the body’s investigation into complaints received about Rishi Sunak’s claim ministers had “cleared” the asylum backlog.

The watchdog previously said its regulatory arm, the Office for Statistics Regulation (OSR), was looking into the announcement made earlier this month as more than 4500 “legacy” cases remained outstanding – despite ministers claiming they had succeeded.

Labour also said that a "disturbing" 17,000 asylum seekers had simply been "withdrawn" from the backlog without proper processing.

At the time, opponents branded the UK Government's claims a “barefaced lie”.

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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.

Chote sent a letter, published on Thursday, to Liberal Democrat MP Alistair Carmichael, who lodged the complaint with the watchdog.

The watchdog chief said: “The average member of the public is likely to interpret a claim to have ‘cleared a backlog’ – especially when presented without context on social media – as meaning that it has been eliminated entirely, so it is not surprising that the Government’s claim has been greeted with scepticism and that some people may feel misled when these ‘hard cases’ remain in the official estimates of the legacy backlog.

“That said, there may be a perfectly good case for excluding cases of this type from any commitment to eliminate the backlog over the timeframe the Government chose, but this argument was not made at the time the target was announced or when it was clarified in the letter to the Home Affairs Committee.”

Highlighting the need for ministers and advisers to “think carefully about how a reasonable person would interpret a quantitative claim of the sort and to consult the statistical professionals in their department”, Chote said: “This episode may affect public trust when the Government sets targets and announces whether they have been met in the other policy domains.”

While he welcomed the Home Office publishing data on such an “important policy area”, he noted the department did not disclose this at the same time as making the announcement in a press notice to journalists, “which prevented them from being able to scrutinise the data when first reporting it”.

“This does not support our expectations around intelligent transparency, and we have raised this with the Home Office,” he added.

The Prime Minister pleaded with unelected peers in the House of Lords to pass the legislation, calling it an “urgent national priority”, during a Thursday morning press conference in Downing Street.

He said: “There is now only one question. Will the opposition in the appointed House of Lords try and frustrate the will of the people as expressed by the elected House? Or will they get on board and do the right thing?”

The Rwanda bill easily passed through the Commons on Wednesday night, as a vaunted Tory rebellion dissolved in the hours leading up to the vote.

Attempts to amend the legislation by Conservative hardliners failed, including an attempt by former immigration minister Robert Jenrick to have injunctions from the European Court of Human Rights ignored by default.