Nick Clegg has refused to reveal estimates of the number of Romanians and Bulgarians expected to come to the UK when restrictions on their right to work are lifted next year.
The deputy PM said the figures were not “precise”, more like “guesstimates”.
Making them public would not help “public confidence in the immigration system”, he told LBC Radio.
Ministers were contradicting themselves and were “in a hopeless mess” over the issue, Labour’s Chris Bryant said.
People from Romania and Bulgaria have been free to live in the UK and anywhere else in the EU since 2007, but in the UK have either had to apply for one of the limited work permits available, been self-employed or worked in a specific list of jobs such as seasonal agricultural ones and domestic servants.
According to the ONS, in July 2012 there were 94,000 people who were born in Romania and 47,000 people who were born in Bulgaria resident in the UK.