Tony Blair fought back against claims he had "lost control" by announcing tough new measures to deport foreign criminals yesterday.
The Prime Minister challenged Conservative and Liberal Democrat critics to back measures ensuring foreigners convicted of a serious criminal offence in Britain were deported automatically.
But the Government's difficulties continued to pile up as Charles Clarke, the Home Secretary, was forced to admit at least half of the most serious offenders released in the foreign prisoner scandal were still on the run.
Of the 79 most serious offenders identified last week, which included murderers, rapists and child sex attackers, 32 have been tracked down and officials have ruled out deporting another nine.
A Home Office spokeswoman confirmed that the remaining 38 were still at large.
A further 11 offenders in the killers and rapists category have also been identified among the 1,023 released overall, Mr Clarke said, bringing the total to 90.
In a rowdy House of Commons exchange, Tory leader David Cameron renewed calls for Mr Clarke to resign.
"This Home Secretary will forever be associated with the scandal of releasing foreign prisoners on to our streets," he told Mr Blair.
Mr Cameron accused the Prime Minister of having "lost control" of the Government.
The Prime Minister, looking tired, told MPs the deportation system for prisoners had not functioned properly for decades - and the problems could not be blamed on Mr Clarke.
He said: "It's not just a question of the existing system. It's making sure that that system is radically overhauled so those convicted of a serious criminal offence are deported automatically."
In the latest damaging development for the Government, it was revealed that Caliph Ali Asmar, an Iraqi Kurd wanted for questioning in connection with the attempted murder of a man and a sex attack on a 15-year-old girl, was recommended for deportation after a previous court case.
Earlier this week it emerged that a 25-year-old Somalian, Mustaf Jamma, was allowed to stay in Britain just months before he was implicated in the murder of Pc Sharon Beshenivsky in Bradford in November. Jamma is still on the run.
Mr Clarke told MPs that under new proposals to shake up the removal of foreign prisoners, "the presumption should be that deportation will follow unless there are special circumstances why it cannot".
He was jeered by Tory MPs as he told the Commons these were "significant proposals" which his department had been "preparing for some months".
Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman Nick Clegg said the Government had failed to make use of the powers it already had.
"The Home Secretary has extensive powers to deport foreign prisoners - the scandal is that he hasn't used them."
The Government proposals were criticised by the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants.
Spokeswoman Tauhid Pasha said: "We are concerned that those particular provisions threaten the principle of no double jeopardy in UK law and the fundamental principle of civic equality that people are tried once and punished once for any offence."