UK & World News

  • 8 February 2014, 23:19

Immigration Minister Quits Over Illegal Cleaner

Mark Harper has resigned as immigration minister after discovering his cleaner was in the UK illegally.

Downing Street said there was "no suggestion that Mr Harper knowingly employed an illegal immigrant", but Prime Minister David Cameron "accepted his resignation with regret".

The Forest of Dean MP made the decision after being told the cleaner for his London flat did not have indefinite leave to remain in the UK.

He admitted he "should have checked more thoroughly" that the documents provided to him when he took her on in 2007 were genuine - a copy of her passport and a Home Office letter which said she was allowed to stay.

Mr Harper decided against checking her status twice after that - when he was appointed a Cabinet Office minister in 2010 and after being named immigration minister two years ago.

The former minister said he thought it was "prudent" to check her status again last year as the Immigration Bill was going through Parliament.

The legislation doubles the fines for employers who take on illegal immigrants without proper checks.

He was unable to find the original documents so asked for further copies from the cleaner.

These were checked by immigration officials, who discovered she was not in fact cleared to work. The matter has now been passed to Immigration Enforcement.

In a letter to Mr Cameron, he apologised for any embarrassment caused and said it was best for him to return to the backbenches.

"Although I complied with the law at all times, I consider that as Immigration Minister, who is taking legislation through Parliament which will toughen up our immigration laws, I should hold myself to a higher standard than expected of others," he wrote.

Mr Cameron said he had "taken an honourable decision" and hoped to see him return to government "before too long".

"I have always enormously appreciated your energy and your loyalty. It is typical of you that you should be so mindful of the wider interests of the Government and the Party in reaching the decision that you have, and I am very grateful for that."

Home Secretary Theresa May said she was "extremely sorry" to see Mr Harper go.

"Mark has been an excellent minister and he can be proud of the role he has played in sharply reducing immigration to Britain.

"He has been a first-rate colleague and his decision reflects his loyal commitment to the Conservative Party, the Government and the Prime Minister."

Junior Home Office minister James Brokenshire will replace him.

Shadow immigration minister David Hanson said he respected the decision but added it highlighted gaps in the system "as it's clear there are limits to the effectiveness of relying on employer and landlord checks to address illegal immigration".

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