UK immigration minister resigns after employing illegal immigrant

The UK's immigration minister, Mark Harper MP, has resigned after revealing that, for seven years, he had been employing an immigrant with no right to work in the UK.

Mr Harper said that he had done nothing illegal but said that 'as Immigration Minister…I should hold myself to a higher standard than expected in others'. Mr Harper was responsible for driving the Coalition government's controversial new Immigration Bill through parliament.

Prime Minister David Cameron accepted Mr Harper's resignation 'with regret'.

Landlords to be required to check tenants' immigration status

The Immigration Bill contains some controversial clauses including one which will require landlords to carry out checks on all prospective tenants before renting them a property. Landlords groups say that landlords are not experts in immigration law and cannot be expected to tell whether or not documents are genuine.

Ironically, it seems that Mr Harper may have fallen foul of a forged document himself.

The news of Mr Harper's resignation emerged on Saturday 8th February 2010. In a letter to the Prime Minister, Mr Harper said that he had asked the unnamed woman for proof that she was entitled to work in the UK when he first employed her as the cleaner at his London flat in 2007.

Indefinite leave to remain

Mr Harper claims that, at the time, she had presented him with a letter from the Home Office saying that she had indefinite leave to remain in the UK. As required by law, he says, he took copies of this letter and employed her.

Later, in 2013, while piloting the Immigration Bill through parliament, he said, 'I thought it prudent to check that all my documents were in order for my cleaner. I undertook an extensive search to locate the copies of documents I had taken but unfortunately I was unable to locate them'.

Consequently, he asked his cleaner for further copies of the same documents which were provided on 4th and 5th of February 2014.

Cleaner did not have ILR

Mr Harper told the Prime Minister, 'On 5 February, I asked my private office to check the details with immigration officials to confirm that all was in order. I was informed on the morning of 6 February that my cleaner did not, in fact, have indefinite leave to remain in the United Kingdom. I immediately notified the Home Secretary and my Permanent Secretary'.

Mr Harper gave the details of the unnamed woman, who is from Colombia, to the UK's border enforcement authorities.

Labour's shadow immigration minister David Hanson said 'I understand and respect the decision Mark Harper has taken today.

Harper in 'a difficult position'

'As immigration minister he has argued in parliament for landlords to be required to carry out checks on every tenant. So this information about Mark Harper's employee does put him in a difficult position'.

Shami Chakrabarti is the civil rights group Liberty was less charitable. She said that it was a 'bitter irony' that Mr Harper should 'fall foul of a mad and toxic immigration debate' which he had helped to create as a member of the Coalition government.

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