AMBER Rudd has suggested she was the victim of a dirty tricks campaign after a Whitehall report said she was failed by her officials during the row over immigration policy, which led to her resignation as Home Secretary.
The senior Tory quit the Cabinet after she “inadvertently misled” the Commons Home Affairs Committee over targets for the removal of illegal immigrants.
But the report into the row found officials repeatedly gave her wrong information and then failed to clear up the problem in time to allow her to correct the record.
Ms Rudd said: “There are elements of this report which just show that, unfortunately, that area of the department did not have a grip on what was going on.
“I hope that there will be changes made as a result of this report so that people get a better service from Immigration Enforcement.”
She questioned why the report had been “sat on for nearly six months” and claimed she had been targeted by a series of leaks while she was Home Secretary.
“There were a series of leaks during the past year at quite a high level that were definitely intended to embarrass me,” said Ms Rudd.
The report could clear the way for Theresa May to promote the Hastings and Rye MP back into the Cabinet; Ms Rudd said it was now “up to the Prime Minister” whether she returned to the front bench. It is thought she would like to return to the Government frontline. When asked if she wanted to return to Cabinet, she replied she was “not without ambition”.
But Downing Street distanced itself from any suggestion of a dirty tricks campaign. A spokeswoman for the Prime Minister, who was Ms Rudd’s predecessor at the Home Office, said the report had “raised some difficult and important issues”.
She explained: “The Home Office have rightly said they will learn from them and the PM will expect them to do that.”
The spokeswoman stressed that Mrs May did not believe civil servants were acting against ministers.
The investigation, she said, had dealt with “a specific set of circumstances involving a small number of individuals” but added there was “nothing to suggest such issues are widespread” across either the department or the Civil Service.
Asked if the PM would like to see her colleague back in government, the spokeswoman replied: “That would be a decision for the Prime Minister in the future.”
The internal report revealed Ms Rudd asked officials for advice on targets before her ill-fated appearance at the Home Affairs Committee in April at the height of the scandal over the treatment of the Windrush generation.
The report, written by Sir Alex Allan, Mrs May’s independent adviser on ministerial standards, said “crossed wires” contributed to Ms Rudd’s downfall.
It stated that she “was not supported as she should have been” by her officials before, during and after the committee appearance on April 25.
“In preparations immediately before the hearing, the Home Secretary asked: ‘Are there removals targets?’ and was told ‘No’. This led to her denial in the hearing,” wrote Sir Alex in an executive summary.
He added: “I cannot establish how she was given this reply: the most likely explanation is crossed wires between her special adviser and her private office.”
Labour’s Yvette Cooper, who chairs the Commons Home Affairs Committee, said Sir Alex’s report was long overdue and that it was “troubling” the then Home Secretary did not get the correct advice.
Noting how her committee would be cross-examining department chiefs later this month, Ms Cooper added: “The decisions the Home Office takes have huge repercussions for people’s lives – as we saw in the Windrush cases – so we cannot afford for the Home Office to be dysfunctional. This is far too important a department to be getting things so badly wrong”.
Source : HeraldScotland