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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 September 2018

British home secretary resigns over migrant removal target claims

Amber Rudd steps down after two weeks of pressure on her following the Windrush scandal

Britain's home secretary Amber Rudd was repeatedly called back to the House of Commons this week to answer questions about immigration policy. REUTERS/Hannah McKay/File Photo NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVES
Britain's home secretary Amber Rudd was repeatedly called back to the House of Commons this week to answer questions about immigration policy. REUTERS/Hannah McKay/File Photo NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVES

The British interior minister Amber Rudd has resigned after two weeks of pressure over her role in the Windrush scandal, which saw Caribbean migrants stripped of citizenship rights and face deportation from the country.

The departure was triggered by appearances in the House of Commons where she gave the appearance that she was unaware of targets within her own department in relation to the removal of migrants from the UK. These were applied to Commonwealth citizens who had entered the country legally.

Late on Sunday night, Prime Minister Theresa May reluctantly accepted Ms Rudd’s resignation, following a challenge to the Home Secretary’s testimony in a story in The Guardian. The newspaper reported a letter from Ms Rudd to the prime minister last year in which she stated an “ambitious but deliverable” aim for an increase in the enforced deportation of immigrants.

The letter, signed by the home secretary in January, gave the impression that Ms Rudd was fully aware of the work that her department was setting out to achieve: an “aim of increasing the number of enforced removals by more than 10 per cent over the next few years”.

But Ms Rudd had claimed earlier in the week that she did not set targets for removals. Earlier on Sunday the former immigration minister Brandon Lewis said this was an ambition rather than a target.

The Guardian reported that home office sources called it “shame-faced nonsense” to say there were no targets or that she had been unaware of them.

Ms Rudd’s departure leaves the prime minister with considerable political headaches: the former home secretary had been a key ally of Mrs May, with some calling her a human shield for the PM, who had held that position in the government when the policies affecting the Windrush generation had been implemented.

Ms Rudd was also a key Remain voice in the government, and the prime minister will perhaps need to balance the political nature of the Cabinet by appointing another senior minister from the pro-European wing of the party. Sajid Javid, the Communities Secretary, is considered to be favourite to replace Ms Rudd: he would become the first member of an ethnic minority to serve as home secretary, considered to be one of the great offices of state in the British government, alongside Chancellor and Foreign Secretary.

Colleagues of Ms Rudd paid tribute to her on Sunday night. Environment Secretary Michael Gove, who has been talked of as a replacement for her, said:

Nicky Morgan, a former Tory education secretary who is also on the pro-European wing of the party and who has been part of a key group of rebels which has opposed Mrs May on Brexit in the House of Commons, paid tribute to Ms Rudd:

Many political commentators are suggesting that the former home secretary could potentially join the Europhile group on the backbenches and cause further trouble for the prime minister.

Opposition politicians appear to believe that they can target Mrs May now that her "human shield" has gone. Tom Watson, the deputy leader of the Labour party, said that with Ms Rudd gone the prime minister had questions to answer herself:

Diane Abbot, the Labour shadow home secretary, said “I think she’s done the right thing. What I said when I called for her to resign last week was that it is a matter of honour. Given all the to-ing and fro-ing and issues about whether she’d been entirely truthful with the home affairs select committee, I don’t think the Windrush generation could have had the confidence in her.”

Ed Davey, Ms Rudd's Liberal Democrat shadow, said that “it’s clear that Amber Rudd has ended up, at least partly, being the fall guy to protect the prime minister. Theresa May must face questions now given these dreadful failures largely took place under her watch as home secretary.”

Mrs May is expected to announce a replacement for Ms Rudd on Monday.

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