Amber Rudd finally bowed to massive pressure tonight and quit saying she had to ‘take responsibility’ for misleading parliament over deportation targets for illegal migrants.
With no sign of the scandal blowing over, the Home Secretary decided to fall on her sword rather than face more humiliation.
‘I feel it is necessary to do so because I inadvertently misled the Home Affairs Select Committee,’ she said – admitting she ‘should have been aware’ the targets existed.
The dramatic departure will be a huge blow for Theresa May – and potentially leaves her personally vulnerable.
Ms Rudd has acted as an lightning rod for her predecessor in the Home Office amid the outcry over the Windrush immigration debacle.
It appears that Ms Rudd took the decision to quit herself, despite Downing Street previously trying to prop her up. She telephoned the PM to inform her of the move tonight.
In her response to Ms Rudd, Mrs May said she was ‘very sorry’ to receive the resignation. The premier said she still believed Ms Rudd had answered questions from Mps in ‘good faith’.
Tories expressed sadness at the departure – while opposition parties wasted no time in turning their fire on Mrs May.
Labour deputy leader Tom Watson said: ‘I see Amber Rudd is carrying the can for the person originally responsible for this scandal – Theresa May.’
The timing of the resignation took Westminster by surprise. There was intense speculation that Ms Rudd might go on Friday night after the emergence of a leaked Home Office memo that had been copied to the minister.
Home Secretary Amber Rudd shocked Westminster tonight by resigning over the raging Windrush scandal
In her resignation letter, Ms Rudd admitted she ‘should have been aware’ the targets existed. Mrs May said she was ‘sorry’ to accept the resignation
The departure will be a huge blow for Theresa May – picture at church with husband Philip today – and potentially leaves her personally vulnerable
Tories expressed sorrow at the departure – while opposition parties wasted no time in turning their fire on Mrs May. Labour deputy leader Tom Watson said Mrs May was ‘responsible’
Tory MP Anna Soubry suggested that Ms Rudd could join Remainer rebels on the backbenches
It spelled out that there were both national and regional targets for deportations of illegal immigrants – seemingly contradicting the evidence Ms Rudd gave to the Home Affairs select committee a day earlier.
But after hours of ominous silence from the Home Office, Ms Rudd broke cover to insist she would stay on.
She vowed she genuinely did not know about the targets when she gave evidence to MPs – and said she would make her case to the Commons in a statement tomorrow.
It comes after another private letter which included ‘ambitious and deliverable’ migrant deportation targets emerged, after Rudd claimed she knew nothing about them.
Ms Rudd appeared to have signed the correspondence, which said her department aimed to ‘increase the number of enforced removals by more than ten per cent’, in January last year.
The Home Secretary had already claimed that she had never seen a previous memo referencing immigration targets – and the letter appears to have been the final straw.
The blunder led to Labour calls for her resignation and growing disquiet among her colleagues.
What is the Windrush scandal and how did the fiasco develop?
June 22, 1948 – The Empire Windrush passenger ship docked at Tilbury from Jamaica.
The 492 passengers were temporarily housed near Brixton in London. Over the following decades some 500,000 came to the UK.
Many arrived on their parents’ passports and were not formally naturalised as British citizens.
1973 – A new immigration Act comes into force putting the onus on individuals to prove they have previously been resident in the UK.
2010 – The Home Office destroyed thousands of landing card slips recording Windrush immigrants’ arrival dates in the UK.
The move came despite staff warnings that the move would make it harder to check the records of older Caribbean-born residents experiencing residency difficulties, it was claimed
2014 – A protection that exempted Commonwealth residents from enforced removal was removed under a new law. Theresa May was Home Secretary at the time.
Under a crackdown on illegals, Windrush immigrants are obliged to provide proof they were resident in the UK before 1973.
July 2016 – Mrs May becomes Prime Minister.
April 2018 – Allegations that Windrush immigrants are being threatened with deportation break. Theresa May issued a grovelling apology to Caribbean leaders after major backlash
Allies of Ms Rudd said the former Home Office Secretary felt isolated by No 10 and let down by her officials.
One said: ‘Amber has been caught in a s*** sandwich. There has been no support from Downing Street, either politically or in terms of communications.
The six-page page memo prepared by Hugh Ind, the director general of Immigration Enforcement in the Home Office used policy ideas outlined by Rudd in her private letter.
Included in the document, leaked to the Guardian, were targets such as ‘achieving 12,800 enforced returns in 2017/18’.
The note was also addressed to Marc Owen, senior director of national and international operations in Immigration Enforcement, Mark Thomson, the director general of the Passport Office and Tony Eastaugh, UK director of operations at Immigration Enforcement.
Ms Rudd’s departure will also upset 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.
Environment Secretary Michael Gove – one of the Cabinet’s leading Brexiteers – was being touted as the front runner replace her at the Home Office.
Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott said: ‘Amber has done the right thing. The Windrush generation could not have had faith in her. She made promises she brushed under the carpet. It is a Home Office scandal.’
Ms Abbott told BBC Radio 4’s Westminster Hour: ‘Politics is very hard and the only sympathy goes to the generation of people who have been let down by this Government. We need justice.’
Labour MP David Lammy, a leading campaigner on Windrush, tweeted: ‘Amber Rudd resigned because she didn’t know what was going on in her own department and she had clearly lost the confidence of her own civil servants.
‘The real issue is the hostile environment policy that caused this crisis in the first place.
‘The resignation of the Home Secretary must not detract from the fact that this crisis was a direct result of the hostile environment policy.
‘That policy must now be reviewed, and the Home Office must move quickly to compensate and grant citizenship to the Windrush generation.’
In a sign that Ms Rudd could join Remainer rebels on the Tory backbenches, former minister Anna Soubry said: ‘V sorry that @AmberRuddHR has resigned. She is a woman of great courage & immense ability.
‘Amber will be missed in many ways. We’ll give her a huge welcome on to our back benches. If there is any justice she will soon return to the highest of office. Proud to call her my friend.’
Lucy Frazer, Tory MP for South East Cambridgeshire, added: ‘I’m very disappointed she felt she had to resign. Amber was an excellent Minister. We were expecting her statement in the Commons tomorrow. She’s put a number of measures in place for the Windrush generation.’
Ms Rudd ended up in trouble after her evidence to the Home Affairs committee last week, and was forced to come to the Commons to explain herself. She was due to run the gauntlet of another Commons appearance tomorrow
Brandon Lewis attempted to defend Ms Rudd earlier today but she finally decided that she could not hang on
Ex-banker who became Remainer champion in May’s Cabinet
Amber Rudd enjoyed a rapid rise through the ministerial ranks
Amber Rudd is a former investment banker, venture capitalist and financial journalist, who decided to enter politics in her 40s in order to get ‘a grip on her life’.
David Cameron put Ms Rudd, 54, on his controversial A-list of candidates and she took Hastings and Rye back from Labour in 2010.
She enjoyed a rapid rise through the ranks, serving as parliamentary private secretary to then chancellor George Osborne two years later.
She was promoted to junior minister at the Energy and Climate Change department in 2014, entering Cabinet as secretary of state for the same brief in 2015.
Ms Rudd’s time at the Climate Change department was stormy. When she piloted fracking legislation through the Commons as its junior minister, she was accused by the opposition of reneging on pledges not to let the controversial gas extraction process occur in national parks.
She announced that drilling would be allowed underneath such protected areas, if it began outside their surface boundaries.
After becoming secretary of state at the department, her attitude to renewable energy was strongly criticised by environmentalists.
Ms Rudd was a committed Remain campaigner, who raised eyebrows with the highly personalised attacks she launched on her now Cabinet colleague Boris Johnson.
During a live TV clash she declared: ‘Boris is the life and soul of the party, but he is not the man you want driving you home at the end of the evening.’
She then came to Theresa May’s aid in the short-lived, but bruising, run-off campaign with Andrea Leadsom as she slapped down her own junior minister at the Energy Department by questioning Ms Leadsom’s experience.
The ex-Cheltenham Ladies’ College pupil, and Edinburgh University history graduate, has a son and a daughter from the five years she was married to the late columnist AA Gill, who used to refer to her as ‘the silver spoon’ in his restaurant reviews.
Four Weddings And A Funeral director Richard Curtis said he gave Ms Rudd, who is believed to briefly appear in a church scene in the film, the job of casting extras for the movie, because: ‘She knew a lot of dukes and earls.’
Ms Rudd was appointed Home Secretary on July 13 2016.
During her time in the role, which included having overall responsibility for security and terrorism, she dealt with the UK falling victim to a number of terror attacks such as the Westminster Bridge and Manchester Arena attacks, and the poisoning of the Skripals in Salisbury.
In January this year she became Minister for Women and Equalities.