UK Politics

Rudd told May of 'ambitious but deliverable' removals plan - leak

Amber Rudd Image copyright Getty Images

Home Secretary Amber Rudd reportedly set out her "ambitious but deliverable" aim to deport more illegal immigrants last year in a letter to Theresa May.

Labour said the letter proved there were removals targets and Ms Rudd was aware of them - something she has previously denied.

Ms Rudd promised Mrs May a 10% or more increase in enforced removals over the "next few years," The Guardian says.

She is due to make a Commons statement on Monday amid calls for her to quit.

In the letter, from January 2017, leaked to the Guardian, Ms Rudd tells Theresa May - her predecessor as home secretary - about plans to restructure the department to focus on the "aim of increasing the number of enforced removals by more than 10% over the next few years, something I believe is ambitious, but deliverable".

Shadow home secretary Diane Abbott said: "The Tories' shameful attempts to cover up their mess must end. Clearly there were targets, and Amber Rudd was aware of them.

"Theresa May has sent minister after minister out to protect her cruel legacy, misleading Parliament and the public in the process. With each new revelation, we get more of an insight into the Tories' heartless Home Office policies which have led to the Windrush scandal.

"This chaos has gone on for far too long. It's time for Rudd to go and for the government to rethink its whole approach."

The Windrush row began when it emerged that some migrants from Commonwealth countries, who settled in the UK from the late 1940s to the 1970s, and their relatives, had been declared illegal immigrants.

Ms Rudd's aim of increasing "enforced deportations" would not have affected Windrush migrants, as they were threatened with "voluntary departure". (The term "voluntary" describes the method of departure rather than the choice of whether or not to depart - those leaving in this way are able to approach the Home Office for financial assistance with travel costs).

Ms Rudd had initially told MPs investigating the scandal there were no removals targets - before admitting "local" targets for voluntary removals had been set.

She told the Commons on Thursday she had not been aware of them.

But the Guardian reported a June 2017 memo from an official, copied to Ms Rudd, that refers to targets.

Image caption Brandon Lewis was the immigration minister when the leaked memo was sent

Ms Rudd's former deputy at the Home Office, Brandon Lewis, said he often talked to her about the 10% "ambition" for enforced removals but not "detailed numbers or targets".

Mr Lewis, who is now Conservative Party chairman, said he remembered receiving the memo, from the Home Office's immigration enforcement team, in July last year.

He told the BBC's Andrew Marr programme: "I am confident that she didn't have that memo. When Amber Rudd says she didn't see something, I know she didn't see it."

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Media captionA look back at life when the Windrush generation arrived in the UK

He said there was a difference between the figures in that memo, which was an update of progress towards a target of "12,800 enforced returns in 2017-18", and what Ms Rudd was asked about at the home affairs committee hearing on Wednesday.

He said those figures has been "key performance indicators" for local internal use.

Yvette Cooper, chairman of the Home Affairs Committee said this was "clearly not true" and called on Mr Lewis to withdraw his claim, tweeting: "It doesn't help anyone and is completely inappropriate for you to try to rewrite committee questions."

Mr Lewis said Ms Rudd had put an extra £10m into the team that produced the memo leaked to The Guardian to help them meet a target of increasing removals by 10% "in the years ahead," as she sets out in her letter to Mrs May.

"I was working with her on a weekly basis to make sure that we were doing everything we could - working with the police, working with local government - to help vulnerable people, to crackdown on criminals, and to remove more people who are here illegally," he told the programme.

"Yes, I did talk to the home secretary about that and the overall work that we were doing and the overall ambition to see an increase in numbers, but not on the detailed numbers and targets."

Diane Abbott said the home secretary may have breached the ministerial code by not giving accurate and truthful information to Parliament.

Ms Abbott has written to the prime minister to demand an investigation into Ms Rudd's conduct and a full investigation into targets for immigration removals.

On Wednesday, Ms Rudd told the home affairs committee: "We do not have targets for removals."

Asked about evidence giving to the committee by the head of the ISU union, for border and immigration workers, that targets had been set, she asked whether they were a "number" or a "percentage" before promising to look into the issue.

On Thursday, she told MPs: "I have never agreed that there should be specific removal targets and I would never support a policy that puts targets ahead of people."

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