London, 08 February (BBC): The Tory minister, tipped as a future Prime Minister, admitted he had embarrassed the government. Immigration Minister Mark Harper has sensationally quit – for employing an illegal immigrant as his cleaner.In a hugely embarrassingly blow for David Cameron, Mr Harper was behind the controversial “Go Home” adverts emblazoned on vans that urged illegal immigrants to leave the UK. Downing Street said Mr Harper, once tipped as a future PM, offered his resignation after realising he had employed an illegal immigrant at his London flat. Forest of Dean MP Mr Harper first employed the South American woman in April 2007, but said he only realised she had no right to be in the UK on February 6 this year – almost seven years later.
Cleaner Has Become Root cause of resignation of UK’s Immigration Minister
Image credit : BBC world service
In his resignation letter released by Number Ten yesterday, Mr Harper told the PM: “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.”
“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 Harper, aged 42, was behind the ad campaign in which vans were driven around areas with high levels of ethnic minorities carrying the sign “Here Illegally? Go Home or Risk Arrest”.
He claimed he carried out proper checks on the female cleaner before she began working at his London flat in Waterloo. Mr Harper said he was “very mindful of my legal and financial obligations and undertook a number of checks beforehand” – including whether she was allowed to work in this country. He said taking tough new laws through Parliament made him check more carefully – but he could not find copies of her passport. “I thought it prudent to check that all my documents were in order for my cleaner,” added Mr Harper. “I undertook an extensive search to locate the copies of documents I had taken but unfortunately I was unable to locate them. “As a result, in the week commencing 20 January 2014 I asked my cleaner for further copies of these documents which she provided on 4 February.
“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.”
The revelation meant he could not remain in his post as the minister responsible for tightening up Britain’s immigration system. Oxford-educated Mr Harper, who became Immigration Minister in September 2012, has been replaced by James Brokenshire. Mr Harper triggered controversy last year when he confronted a five times-failed asylum seeker on TV and demanded he go home, saying: “We don’t believe you and neither did the judge.” In his response to Mr Harper’s letter, the PM praised his energy and loyalty and said he hoped he would return to a job as a frontbench minister “before too long”. A Downing Street spokeswoman said: “Mark Harper offered his resignation after he was informed that his cleaner did not have indefinite leave to remain in the United Kingdom, despite having shown him documents claiming she did.
“He immediately notified the Prime Minister – who accepted his resignation with regret. There is no suggestion that Mr Harper knowingly employed an illegal immigrant.” Former Attorney General and Labour peer Baroness Scotland was fined £5,000 in September 2009 after she was found to be employing a Tongan housekeeper who was not entitled to work in Britain. Home Secretary Theresa May praised Mr Harper as a “first-rate colleague”.She said: “Mark has been an excellent minister and he can be proud of the role he has played in sharply reducing immigration to Britain.” New immigration minister Mr Brokenshire is was a former junior minister at the Home Office. Government sources confirmed immigration officials are conducting an inquiry, with the possibility the cleaner was using forged documents one line of investigation.