The Prime Minister confirmed the practice was in place when she was home secretary, but Downing Street said Mrs May had no information on targets for immigration removals when Ms Rudd wrongly told MPs last Wednesday that they didn’t exist.
“Once the Prime Minister ceased to be home secretary, she would not have received any operational detail of that kind,” the Prime Minister’s spokesman said.
Jeremy Corbyn insisted Mrs May had “questions to answer” about her time in the Home Office.
Quizzed about her role in Windrush controversy and Ms Rudd’s resignation during a visit to Cumbria, the Prime Minister insisted the public want the government to deal with people who have no right to be in the country.
Mrs May said she was “very sorry” that her close ally had resigned from the Home Office, saying Ms Rudd had “acted with integrity and with compassion and with selflessness”.
Asked why she had not spoken out about the immigration targets, the Prime Minister said: “When I was home secretary we did have targets, targets for ensuring we were dealing with illegal immigrants and I think if you ask any member of the public they will say that they do want government making sure that people who are here illegally are removed and are not able to stay in the UK.
“It is only fair on ordinary working people, people who work hard, who contribute to see that those people who come here illegally, who perhaps haven’t contributed, aren’t able to make the same use of services.”
Asked if Mrs May allowed Ms Rudd “to fall on her sword” to protect herself, she replied: “Amber resigned because of information that she had given to Parliament which proved to be inaccurate.”
Mr Corbyn said Ms Rudd had been the “human shield” for the Prime Minister.
The Labour leader said Mrs May “now has questions to answer” about “what she actually did as home secretary” in establishing the ‘hostile environment’ policy for undocumented migrants.
The SNP’s home affairs spokeswoman Joanna Cherry said blame for the Windrush scandal “lies firmly at the door of Theresa May and her toxic Tory immigration policies.”