UK Immigration: Mark Harper Resigns Over Illegally Employed Cleaner

Mark Harper, the Immigration Minister, has resigned after discovering that his cleaner for his London residence did not have the correct permission to work in the United Kingdom. The Forest of Dean MP made the decision after discovering that his cleaner for his London flat did not have indefinite leave to remain in the UK. Tory MP Mark Harper’s resignation comes as a hugely embarrassing blow for Prime Minister David Cameron.

UK Immigration Minister Mark Harper Quits Over Illegal Worker Controversy

Ironically, the Immigration Minster who endorsed the ‘Go Home’ vans campaign and recently proposed harsher penalties for employers who hire illegal migrant workers has admitted today that his cleaner did not have the correct immigration permission to work in the UK and the matter has now been referred to the Home Office Enforcement Unit.

Mark Harper has claimed that he had made the prerequisite checks in April 2007 when he hired the cleaner to see whether she had the correct permission to stay and work in the UK and took a copy of her passport page and a letter from the Home Office which confirmed her right to work. In the resignation letter, Mark Harper insisted that he was ‘mindful of his financial and legal obligations’ and ensured that the checks that were carried out were accordance with the Home Office regulations.  The issue of his cleaner’s right to work in the UK was revisited upon his appointment as a Cabinet Minister in 2010 and further checks were also made on the cleaner in September 2012.

The resignation letter explains that Mark Harper reviewed the issue again last month as he felt that it was ”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”. He then requested the documents from his cleaner again and gave them to his private secretary who subsequently informed him that the cleaner did not have any right to work in the UK.

Has Former Immigration Minister Mark Harper Broken the Law?

The former Immigration Minister should be well aware of section 8 of the Asylum and Immigration Act in 1996 which makes it a criminal offence to employ anyone who does not have the right to live and work in the UK. The civil penalty was then introduced by the Immigration, Nationality and Asylum 2006 Act which brought in on-the-spot fines of £2,000, payable by employers for each illegal employee.

It has not been explained why more thorough checks were not carried out earlier especially as the Minister has said that he believed that his position meant that he must “hold myself to a higher standard than expected of others”. In December 2013, the Minister criticised UK businesses’ need to recruit overseas migrants and suggested that employers should pay higher wages to recruit British and EU workers. The Minister has also been leading the crusade on the Immigration Bill and the need to increase the current civil penalty from £10,000 to £20,000. A statutory instrument entitled the Immigration (Employment of Adults Subject to Immigration Control) (Maximum Penalty) (Amendment) Order 2014  has currently been laid in draft.

Will Mark Harper Be Fined for Employing Illegal Worker?

It is not clear yet whether Mark Harper will have to pay the current £10,000 civil penalty for employing his cleaner and it seems that he will rely on the defence that his cleaner was self-employed or hired through an agency and only employers who hire ’employees’ must pay the civil penalty. However history demonstrates that members of parliament are not immune from the immigration laws as seen in 2009 when Baroness Scotland was fined £5,000 for employing her housekeeper who was found to be an illegal migrant.

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