The Prime Minister, who ordered his own Tory ministers to abstain in a vote on a rebel amendment aimed at making it easier to deport foreign criminals, insisted his was the only party committed to "getting rid" of offenders from overseas.
The Conservative leader took the highly unusual stance of ordering the abstention despite Home Secretary Theresa May warning the amendment could be illegal.
Esher and Walton MP Dominic Raab's amendment, giving ministers the final say on whether deportation breached human rights, was defeated by 241 votes to 97. Tory backers numbered 87, including two tellers, the second most significant rebellion since Mr Cameron entered Number 10 in 2010.
Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper mocked his handling of the issue as "a complete car crash".
But at the UK-France summit at RAF Brize Norton, Mr Cameron struck a defiant tone: "What happened yesterday is the Immigration Bill, that people predicted would run into extraordinary trouble in the Commons, passed the Commons in the state that I wanted it to."