Author: Mikey Smith
Home Secretary Amber Rudd faces mounting calls to resign after being forced to admit her department did have targets for the number of illegal immigrants removed from Britain.
Yesterday, Home Secretary Amber Rudd said she was “not familiar” with claims her department has targets for migrant removals.
But a 2015 report emerged this morning, which says the department set targets for voluntary departures, which were split between regionally-based enforcement teams.
Answering an urgent question in the House of Commons this morning, Ms Rudd said: “I have never agreed that there should be specific removal targets and I would never support a policy that puts targets ahead of people.
“The immigration arm of the Home Office has been using local targets for internal performance management.
“These were not published targets against which performance was assessed – but if they were used inappropriately then I am clear that this will have to change.
“I have asked officials to provide me with a full picture of performance measurement tools which are used at all levels, and will update the House and the Home Affairs select committee as soon as possible.”
Shadow home secretary Diane Abbott called on Ms Rudd to resign, saying: “When Lord Carrington resigned over the Falklands, he said it was a matter of honour.
“Isn’t it time that the Home Secretary considered her honour and resigned?”
Ms Rudd said: “I believe I have addressed the issue of targets, referring to the fact that there are some offices which are working with them.
“Unfortunately I was not aware of them and I want to be aware of them, which is why I’m now putting in place different measures to ensure that that happens.”
The SNP’s Alison Thewliss repeated calls for Ms Rudd to resign, claiming she was presiding over a department “out of control”.
Ms Thewliss said: “There is a litany of callous incompetence in this department and it is a problem of deliberate policy: cruel hostile environment policy by the former home secretary now Prime Minister and continued unabated by the current Home Secretary.”
She added: “This Home Secretary is presiding over a department out of control, marked by cruelty and chaos.
“Will she stop shielding the Prime Minister, will she do the honourable thing and resign?”
Ms Rudd insisted she is the person to put right issues within the Home Office.
Labour’s Paula Sherriff asked: “Surely if she does take full responsibility for this serious issue then perhaps she should do the honourable thing and resign?”
Ms Rudd replied: “I do take seriously my responsibility but I do think I am the person who can put it right.
“I understand the House will want to hold me to account for that, but I am confident the changes I am committed to putting in place and the transparency that will go with that will deliver the changes that are expected.”
Labour former minster Diana Johnson asked: “Was she asleep when she didn’t know that there were targets for the removal of illegal immigrants?”
Ms Rudd, who took over from Theresa May as Home Secretary in July 2016, told the Commons Home Affairs Committee she was not familiar with suggestions that regional targets were in place.
An inspection of removals by the borders and immigration watchdog said targets were set in 2014/15 and for 2015/16, which were then split between 19 Immigration Compliance and Enforcement (ICE) teams across the UK.
Following Ms Rudd’s appearance before MPs on Wednesday, the Home Office said it had “never been (its) policy to take decisions arbitrarily to meet a target”.
Culture Secretary Matt Hancock also denied targets had led to people being arbitrarily removed.
“As far as I understand it, it has never been Home Office policy to take decisions arbitrarily to meet the target.
“There are rules around immigration. Immigration needs to be controlled but the rules also need to be fair,” he told the Today programme.
Labour MP Sally Jones, who is a member of the Home Affairs Committee, said the disclosure that there were targets for voluntary departures raised new questions for the Home Office.
She expressed concern that targets had led to the creation of a climate where “things have been overlooked on the basis of trying to get people out of the country”.
She told the BBC Radio 4 programme: “I think we need some clarity around what drivers were pushing the workforce to make the decisions that they made.
“We know that there was a target to reduce immigration, we know that there was limited capacity to reduce the number of people coming in, and now it appears there were targets to increase the number of people going out.”
Yvette Cooper, who chairs the Home Affairs select committee, said the response was a “complete fudge” and she would be writing to Ms Rudd “to get a proper answer” on Thursday.
Jeremy Corbyn has called on Ms Rudd to resign over the Windrush scandal, claiming she had inherited a “failing policy” and made it “worse”.