Labour has stepped up the pressure on Amber Rudd to resign amid a dispute over whether she knew the Home Office had targets for the number of people who should be deported.
The home secretary has claimed she “wasn’t aware of specific removal targets” set by her department.
She also told the Commons Home Affairs Committee last week: “We don’t have targets for removals.”
But on Sunday morning, Brandon Lewis, the former immigration minister, admitted he had spoken to Rudd in 2017 about the “overall target” to increase deportations by 10%.
Diane Abbott, Labour’s shadow home secretary, also seized on a letter sent by Rudd to Theresa May last year in which she explicitly mentioned her “ambitious, but deliverable” desire to step up deportations.
“The Tories’ shameful attempts to cover up their mess must end. Clearly there were targets, and Amber Rudd was aware of them,” Abbott said.
“Theresa May has sent Minister after Minister out to protect her cruel legacy, misleading Parliament and the public in the process. With each new revelation, we get more of an insight into the Tories’ heartless Home Office policies which have led to the Windrush scandal.
“This chaos has gone on for far too long. It’s time for Rudd to go and for the Government to rethink its whole approach.”
In the a letter sent by Rudd to the prime minister in January 2017, leaked to The Guardian and first reported on on April 20 and published in full today, she said:
“I will be reallocating £10m (including from low-level crime and intelligence) with the aim of increasing the number of enforced removals by more than 10% or over the next years” something I believe is ambitious, but deliverable.”
Rudd is due to face a grilling from MPs in the Commons on Monday afternoon as she fights for her political career.
Jo Johnson, the Conservative transport minister, used an appearance on ITV’s Peston on Sunday to defend Rudd.
“Amber is a great home secretary,” he said. “She is an outstanding figure in our politics.”
Johnson is married to Amelia Gentleman, the Guardian journalist behind the Windrush revelations that have led to calls for Rudd to resign.
James Cleverly, the deputy chairman of the Tory party, also defended the home secretary as “incredibly diligent and focused”.