Sajid Javid is the new home secretary after Amber Rudd was forced to quit amid the fallout from the Windrush scandal.
Prominent Remainer Rudd became the fifth departure from the cabinet since last year’s snap general election, after admitting she had ‘inadvertently’ misled MPs over the existence of targets for removing illegal immigrants.
The Hastings and Rye MP stepped down the evening before she was due to make a statement in the House of Commons on the targets and illegal migration, as she faced increasing pressure over the handling of the Windrush ‘scandal’.
Theresa May wanted to replace Rudd with a Remainer to keep the balance in cabinet. But although Javid backed staying in the European Union he has not fought as passionately as Rudd for a soft Brexit.
Her resignation letter – in which she took ‘full responsibility’ for not being aware of the existence of targets – follows the resignations of former defence secretary Sir Michael Fallon, Priti Patel as international development secretary, Damian Green as first minister and James Brokenshire, who left his role as Northern Ireland secretary on health grounds.
Mrs May said she was ‘very sorry’ to see her successor as home secretary leave the post, while Rudd’s opposite number Diane Abbott said she had ‘done the right thing’.
The pressure had been building on the former banker ever since the emergence of the ‘appalling’ treatment of Caribbean immigrants to the UK between the 1940s and 1970s – the so-called Windrush generation.
Concerns had been raised about the immigration status of the Windrush generation and there had been stories of people being forced to prove their near-continuous presence in the country in order to prove they were here legally.
Rudd referred to the Windrush ‘scandal’ in her two-page resignation letter, admitting that people with a right to live in the UK had not always been treated ‘fairly and humanely’.
Opposition parties said she was paying the price for May’s ‘hostile environment’ policy towards illegal immigrants when she was home secretary which had led to people being wrongly stripped of their rights and threatened with deportation.
What’s in Javid’s in-tray?
• The Windrush fallout
The scandal that set in train the events that ultimately resulted in Rudd’s departure is far from resolved. Officials are working through hundreds of cases reported to a dedicated helpline, with the number of potential Windrush cases standing at more than 1,300 last week. Javid will also have to oversee the compensation and citizenship schemes announced for those affected by the fiasco.
– The ‘hostile environment’
Measures to crack down on illegal immigration have come under sharp focus and calls for the policy to be abandoned are unlikely to subside after Rudd’s resignation. Her successor will also doubtless face questions over the department’s targets culture, in particular in the area of immigration.
Recent events have prompted fresh questions over the Home Office’s capacity to manage the vast bureaucratic exercise associated with Britain’s departure from the EU. Later this year, the process of assigning status to more than three million EU nationals living in the UK will begin, while the department will be responsible for implementing whatever new immigration system is brought in after the end of the implementation period in 2020.
Before the furore over Windrush and immigration targets erupted, the Home Office was already coming under mounting pressure after a spate of deadly violence in London. Figures released last week showed police in England and Wales registered rises in knife and gun crime last year. Javid will inherit leadership of the Government’s strategy to tackle serious violence – the unveiling of which earlier this month was overshadowed by a fresh row over police officer numbers.
The official threat level remains at severe, meaning an attack is ‘highly likely’. Britain was hit by five attacks last year, and police and MI5 have around 23,000 individuals on their radar. An early task for Javid will be to finalise the Government’s refreshed counter-terror strategy, which is expected to be presented in the coming weeks.