Home secretary Amber Rudd had set an "ambition" to reduce the numbers of people immigrating to the UK, but was not aware of specific Home Office immigration enforcement "targets", according to the chairman of the Conservative party.
Brandon Lewis, the Tory chair who was formerly immigration minister, said the embattled home secretary had not misled Parliament last week, after she faced calls to resign after a leaked memo showed she had been sent details of the targets.
Speaking to the BBC, Lewis said: "Ive been in a room with Amber Rudd talking about increasing the number of returns, but Amber Rudd and I never discussed particular numbers in the way that was outlined at the Home Affairs Select Committee."
Lewis said he and Rudd discussed "the overall work we were doing and the overall ambition we had to see an increase in number, but not on the actual targets."
Rudd will tomorrow make a statement to the House of Commons after facing intense pressure over an allegedly inaccurate statement to Parliament which came amid an ongoing scandal over the treatment of the so-called Windrush generation, a group of British citizens who immigrated from the Commonwealth. Some of the Windrush generation have been threatened with deportation or refused access to medical treatment.
Shadow chancellor Diane Abbott yesterday called for Rudd to resign, although Downing Street said the Prime Minister had "full confidence" in the home secretary, according to the BBC.
In remarks to the Home Affairs Select Committee last week Rudd said: “We dont have targets for removals”.
Lewis today contrasted "targets" with "ambitions", saying Rudd was aware only of the latter. "Theres a big difference between the two things," he said.
On Friday evening Rudd published a statement on Twitter saying "I wasn't aware of specific removal targets. I accept I should have been and I'm sorry that I wasn't".