Amber Rudd has resigned as Home Secretary, admitting in a letter to Prime Minister Theresa May she “inadvertently misled” MPs on immigration targets.
Labour had stepped up calls for Ms Rudd to resign after her former deputy Brandon Lewis confirmed she had set out an “ambition” for the Home Office to increase the number of illegal immigrants it was deporting.
The Home Secretary had been set to face the Commons on Monday with opposition MPs accusing her of having misled Parliament after she told a Commons committee last week that the Government did not have targets for removals.
A private letter obtained by the Guardian also suggested she had set “ambitious but deliverable” targets on the enforced deportation of immigrants, according to reports.
The letter to Mrs May, uncovered by the Guardian, was apparently signed by the Home Secretary in January 2017, with the “aim of increasing enforced removals by more than 10 per cent”.
In her resignation letter to the PMr, Ms Rudd said: “It is with great regret that I am resigning as Home Secretary.
“I feel it is necessary to do so because I inadvertently misled the Home Affairs Select Committee over targets for removal of illegal immigrants during their questions on Windrush.
“Since [then], I have reviewed the advice I was given on the issue and become aware of information provided to my office which makes mention of targets.
“I should have been aware of this, and I take full responsibility for the fact that I was not.”
Ms Rudd’s difficulties began on Wednesday when she told the Commons Home Affairs Committee that the Home Office did not have targets for removals.
The following day, however, she returned to the Commons to admit that Immigration Enforcement managers did use “local targets” but she said they were “not published targets against which performance was assessed”.
A number of Ms Rudd’s fellow Conservative MPs paid tribute to her on Twitter. Housing Secretary Sajid Javid wrote: “Very sad that Amber is leaving Government.
“A huge talent that will no doubt be back in Cabinet soon, helping to strengthen our great nation.”
Meanwhile Environment Secretary Michael Gove said: “I’m so sad about Amber’s departure from government – she was a huge asset – brave, principled, thoughtful, humane, considerate and always thinking of the impact of policy on the vulnerable – I hope Amber will be back soon – we need her”.”
Security minister Ben Wallace added: “During the awful attacks last year Amber Rudd helped steer her department and the security services through difficult times.
“Few ministers are ever tested that way. We should not forget that record. It has been a privilege to work with her.”
Labour MPs were soon on the attack, with the member for Tottenham David Lammy tweeting: “Amber Rudd resigned because she didn’t know what was going on in her own department and she had clearly lost the confidence of her own civil servants.
“The real issue is the hostile environment policy that caused this crisis in the first place.”
Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell added: “You can smell the undoubted odour of a government decomposing.”
The pressure then ratcheted up on Friday with the leak of a Home Office memo, which referred to a target of 2,800 enforced returns for 2017-18, and the progress that had been made towards a “10 per cent increased performance on enforced returns, which we promised the Home Secretary earlier this year”.
In a series of late night tweets, Ms Rudd said she had not seen the memo – even though it was copied to her office – but admitted that she should have been aware of the targets.
Labour has said the targets contributed to the Government’s “hostile environment” for illegal immigrants which led to members of the Windrush generation who were entitled to be in the UK being wrongly threatened with deportation.
More than 200 MPs have written to Mrs May urging her to enshrine in law the promises made to those affected – including a commitment to resolve their immigration status as quickly as possible.
The letter, co-ordinated by Labour backbencher David Lammy, was signed by MPs from Labour, the Liberal Democrats, the SNP, Plaid Cymru and the Greens as well as lone Tory, Anne-Marie Morris.