Amber Rudd has said the Home Office will abandon targets for removing people in the UK illegally from the country, less than 24 hours after she told MPs that the targets didn’t exist.
The Home Secretary made clear she would not resign over the treatment of the Windrush generation, and secured the support of Downing Street and Conservative MPs.
But in a sign of the pressure Ms Rudd has faced over the past week, she refused to say if she had offered her resignation to the Prime Minister.
The Home Secretary was told she has the “total support” of Conservative MPs after being summoned to the Commons to explain why she told a committee on Wednesday that no targets exist for removing people from the UK.
She admitted the Home Office used ”local targets” for “internal performance management”, but said she hadn’t been aware of them and promised to ban them if they were being used “inappropriately”.
A 2015 report that came to light yesterday showed the Home Office did set targets for voluntary departures of people who could not lawfully stay in the UK. Civil Service union leaders said there were local targets for deportations.
SNP MP Alison Thewliss told Ms Rudd she had presided over “a litany of callous incompetence in the Home Office department”.
“The Home Secretary must come clean over this shameful scandal, stop shielding the Prime Minister, and do the right thing and resign,” Ms Thewliss said.
Later, speaking to journalists at a Westminster lunch event, Ms Rudd said: “I have not approved or seen or cleared any targets for removals looking ahead, and looking ahead I will not be doing that.”
The Home Secretary said she felt “very serious and responsible”, outlining a series of changes for her department.
“I want to make sure we focus more on the individual,” Ms Rudd said. “I’m confident that we will see a marked change in tone.”
Asked whether she regarded herself as a future leadership contender, she said: “I’m pretty much focused on what I have got to do now. I am not thinking about any balls coming out to the boundary, I’m just thinking about staying in the game.”
Ms Rudd denied she had been used as a “human shield” to deflect criticism away from Prime Minister Theresa May. But she did joke that she was unable to take advantage of ministers’ usual first line of defence in a crisis, “blaming your predecessor”.