Mr Clegg previously supported the idea of “earned citizenship” for illegal immigrants. His 2010 general election manifesto stated the Liberal Democrats would allow an amnesty for those who had been in the country a decade, speak English and have a clean record.

The deputy Prime Minister today said still thought the idea has some merit as an “honest and pragmatic solution given the chaos in the Home Office”.

“Better surely, we asked, to get them to pay their taxes and make a proper contribution to our society, than to continue to live in the shadows?” he said.

However, he went on to suggest that an amnesty may be out of touch with public opinion and damaging to confidence in the immigration system.