Theresa May is under pressure to explain what she knew about Home Office deportation targets following Amber Rudd’s resignation, as the string of recent cabinet losses was dismissed as “unwanted noise”.
Rudd dramatically resigned on Sunday evening and admitted she “inadvertently misled” MPs when she told them targets did not exist.
The prime minister is expected to announce Rudd’s replacement as home secretary on Monday.
Rudd’s resignation has left May, who served as home secretary between 2010 and 2016, exposed.
Diane Abbott, Labour’s shadow home secretary, has demanded May face MPs today.
“All roads lead back to Theresa May and her tenure as home secretary,” she told the BBC.
It was May, not Rudd, who was the author of the government’s “hostile environment” policy towards illegal immigration.
And she has also stuck doggedly to the 100,000 net migration target - in the face of opposition from many in her own cabinet.
Speaking on BBC Radio 4′s Today programme Chris Grayling, the transport secretary, was asked how May could not have known herself there were deportation targets while Rudd was claiming there were not.
“The current home secretary has not been home secretary for an extensive period, she will not have known what is happening in the Home Office today,” he said.
“Ministers don’t see what is happening in every corner of their department all the time.”
In the last six months May has lost four cabinet ministers, with Priti Patel, Damian Green, Michael Fallon and Amber Rudd all having been forced to resign.
Asked about the high turnover at the top of government, Grayling said: “We have had some unwanted noise in the last few months, some unwanted loss of parliamentary colleagues and Cabinet colleagues.
Grayling, who served as May’s campaign manager in the 2016 Tory leadership race, said he had “absolutely no idea at this moment in time” who May intended to appoint as home secretary.
Rudd’s departure also risks upsetting the delicate balance within the Cabinet between Leavers and Remainers ahead of a crucial meeting of the Brexit “war cabinet” on Wednesday to discuss Britain’s future customs relationship with the EU.
But Grayling, who campaigned for Brexit, said Rudd, a Remainer, could be replaced with a Brexiteer.
“What’s most important is she gives the right person this job because it is much more than the Brexit negotiations. It’s about security and it’s about the safety of our citizens,” he said.
“We are now a government that is united in wanting to deliver the best outcome for Britain in Brexit.”