Amber Rudd has admitted the Home Office has been using deportation targets, but claims she did not know about them.
The Home Secretary is fighting for her political life over the Windrush scandal which has seen people with the legal right to live in the UK being wrongly threatened with being deported.
On Wednesday a 2015 inspection report emerged which showed a target of 12,000 voluntary departures was set by the department. The revelation came after Rudd told the Commons Home Affairs Committee on Tuesday: “We don’t have targets for removals.”
Hauled to the Commons to explain the confusion, Rudd told MPs: “Some offices are working with them. Unfortunately I was not aware of them and I want to be aware of them.”
She added: “I have never agreed that there should be specific removal targets and I would never support a policy that puts targets ahead of people.”
The confusion plunges Rudd deeper into hot water over the Windrush scandal, with Diane Abbott, Labour’s shadow home secretary, saying it was now time Rudd “considered her honour and resigned”.
But Rudd rebuffed the demands, claiming: “I do think I am the person who can put it right,” she said.
Asked if Theresa May still had confidence her home secretary, the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “Yes”.
“The Home Secretary is working hard to address the concerns that have been raised in relation to Windrush to ensure they are addressed and put right,” the spokesman said.
The spokesman added that the idea of governments setting removal targets went back “a number of decades” under both Tory and Labour government.
Rudd also failed to commit wholeheartedly to May’s controversial net migration target, although she rejected suggestions it was “stretching, if not impossible”.
Asked by reporters at a lunch in Westminster if she still supported it, she said: “I’ll come back to you on that.”