UK minister quits over illegal cleaner

UK minister quits over illegal cleaner

Britain's immigration minister Mark Harper has resigned after discovering his cleaner of seven years was working in the UK illegally.

The Tory MP insisted he had not broken the law but accepted that his failure to check her status more thoroughly meant he should step down.

Prime Minister David Cameron said he accepted “with regret” the resignation - which was applauded by all sides at Westminster as a principled decision.

But Labour said the embarrassment also highlighted flaws with the proposed crackdown on employers taking on illegal immigrants, which Mr Harper had been leading through Parliament.

Mr Harper said it was that role which led him to double check the cleaner’s right to work in the UK with immigration officials – who informed him on Thursday that she was there illegally.

“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 told Mr Cameron in his resignation letter.

“I have also considered the impact on my Parliamentary colleagues, the Government and you. I have always believed that politics is a team game, not an individual sport.

“Under the circumstances, I have therefore decided that the right course is for me to return to the backbenches. I am sorry for any embarrassment caused.”

Mr Cameron said it was a typically “honourable” decision by Mr Harper, the MP for Forest of Dean and that he hoped to see him make a rapid return to the ministerial ranks.

Mr Harper said he took copies of the cleaner’s passport and a Home Office letter stated she had indefinite leave to remain in the UK when he took her on to clean his London flat in 2007.

He expressed regret that he did not check their veracity with officials either when he was appointed a cabinet minister in 2010 or took on the immigration brief at the Home Office in 2012.

“In retrospect, I should have checked more thoroughly,” he told the PM.

Prompted to do so by being put in charge of the legislation – which doubles the fine for employers caught taking on an illegal worker to £20,000 – he was unable to find the documents, he said.

When the cleaner produced new copies, he passed them to immigration officials who informed him that the woman should not in fact be in the country.

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