Home Secretary Amber Rudd has been told she has the “total support” of Conservative MPs after she was summoned to the Commons to explain why she told a committee on Wednesday that no targets exist for removing people from the UK.
Addressing MPs, Ms Rudd admitted that 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”.
Following her evidence to the Home Affairs Select Committee, a 2015 report came to light showing the Home Office set targets for voluntary departures of people who could not lawfully stay in the UK. Civil service union leaders also told journalists that there were local targets for deportations.
Witht he Home Secretary under increasing pressure to resign, the Conservative MP Nicholas Soames told Ms Rudd she could “be assured that she has the total support of this side of the House... in trying to resolve a very difficult legacy issue”.
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.
On Wednesday, the powerful Home Affairs Select Committee investigating failures that affected the Windrush generation asked Ms Rudd whether her department has targets for migrant removals.
Ms Rudd, who took over from Theresa May as Home Secretary in July 2016, told the committee she was not familiar with suggestions that regional targets were in place.
Following Ms Rudd’s appearance before MPs on Wednesday, the Home Office said it had “never been policy to take decisions arbitrarily to meet a target”.
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.
Jeremy Corbyn has also called on Ms Rudd to resign over the Windrush scandal, claiming she had inherited a “failing policy” and made it “worse”.
An outcry over treatment of migrants from the Caribbean who arrived after the Second World War has put immigration policy and its administration in the spotlight.
Ms Cooper said she had asked the Home Office whether it has targets for immigration removals after “contradictory evidence” from the Home Secretary and the Immigration Services Union.
A December 2015 report by the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration says that targets were set for voluntary departures, which took place when an individual or family notified authorities of their intention to leave the UK.
Voluntary departures included people who had approached the Home Office for financial assistance with their travel arrangements.
The assistance was available to anyone over 18 who was in the UK illegally, had been refused leave to remain in the UK or had applied for an extension of leave but wanted to withdraw the application and depart.
The report said: “For 2014/15 (10 full months) the Home Office set a target of 7,200 voluntary departures, an average of 120 per week, with the weekly target rising to 160 by the end of March 2015.
“For 2015/16, the annual target was raised to 12,000. These targets were split between the 19 ICE teams across the UK.”
The Home Office also had a process for returning families who had no legal right to remain in the UK, which had a “single numerical target”.
The report said the target was “not a useful performance measure” due to the varying nature of cases year to year.