IMMIGRATION MINISTER MARK HARPER RESIGNS OVER ILLEGALLY EMPLOYING A FOREIGNER – In what is clearly a highly embarrassing situation for David Cameron and his Coalition Government, the Immigration Minister Mark Harper was forced to step down from his position after it was discovered he was employing an illegal foreign national from Columbia as his house cleaner.
It was of course Mr. Harper who in October 2013 appeared on a televised debate with a number of illegal migrants and told them point blank that they have no right to abode in the UK and should therefore leave.
Once again the British public are faced with ‘double standards’ the ‘goose and the gander’ scenario in that what’s unacceptable for some appears perfectly acceptable for others; especially if you happen to be a high ranking cabinet member.
In all honesty I rather liked Mr. Harper for he appeared to be emphatic in sorting out Britain’s deplorable state of immigration but alas we are yet again faced with the reality that what he had to say was simply more rhetoric from a Government that is completely out of touch with reality or the public sentiment; or was it?
Certainly Mr. Harper, since taking up the post as Immigration Minister in 2012, has courted a fair amount of controversy; the Liberal Democrats certainly admonished him for the ‘Go Home’ vans that were deployed on the streets of Britain in order to basically make illegal immigrants fearful of being caught and therefore willing to give themselves up.
I know many people found such a move as inadequate, pitiful and even racist but it is clear with current legislation and the failings of the immigration service’s Mr. Harper was prepared to give anything a go in order to reduce the number of illegal immigrants hiding out in Britain.
Apart from being force to resign Mr. Harper is now facing a fine of up to £5,000 but I strongly suspect that he’ll manage to avert such a fine with the help of powerful friends in Whitehall; we’ll see but I’m not overly confident considering the conduct of most Government officials.
I will say this for Mr. Harper; he at least had the decency to own up to his mistake and he did resign and this comes from a man that was tipped to be Britain’s future Prime Minister – yes the high-powered stakes in the game of politics has left him politically ruined.
Mr. Harper in his own words said that he resigned for he failed to carry out adequate checks on his house cleaners’ immigration status that would have revealed she was residing in the UK unlawfully.
In another rather embarrassing revelation it was also revealed from the Commons records that Mr. Harper had claimed the housing cleaning expenses, some £2,000, as part of his Westminster expenses on a ‘second home allowance’ prior to these being reviewed and changed; whilst this might not be overly endearing to the public there was nothing unlawful or underhanded as to the payments.
In Mr. Harper’s resignation letter to David Cameron he adequately pointed out that he was ‘mindful’ of his legal and financial obligation.
Here is Mr. Harper’s full resignation letter to Mr. Cameron…
In April 2007 I took on a cleaner for my London flat.
In doing so, I was very mindful of my legal and financial obligations and undertook a number of checks beforehand. This included consideration of the HMRC tests as to whether the cleaner was performing her work under a contract for services on a self-employed basis which I concluded she was.
However, even though there was no legal requirement for me to check her right to work in the UK, I felt that it was appropriate to do so.
I therefore took a copy of her passport to verify her identity and also a copy of a Home Office letter, dated 26 January 2006, which stated that she had leave to remain indefinitely in the United Kingdom, including the right to work and engage in a business.
I considered the issue again when you appointed me as a Minister in the Cabinet Office in May 2010 and concluded that as I had performed a right to work check in 2007 and that my cleaner had indefinite leave to remain in the UK no further check was necessary.
When you then appointed me as Immigration Minister in September 2012 I went through a similar consideration process and once again concluded that no further check was necessary. In retrospect, I should have checked more thoroughly.
As I took the Immigration Bill through Parliament in autumn 2013 I talked a lot about these matters in the context both of employers and landlords. What we do, and will, require of both is that they carry out reasonable checks and take copies of documents.
We do not require them to be experts or spot anything other than an obvious forgery. Given this focus on these matters, 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.
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. I immediately notified the Home Secretary and my Permanent Secretary. This is now a matter for Immigration Enforcement.
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.
I am grateful for the opportunities you have given me since you became Leader of the Conservative Party, first in Opposition and then in Government.
I will continue to support you as Prime Minister, the Conservative Party and this Government in whatever way I can from the backbenches. I will also continue to serve my constituents in the Forest of Dean to the best of my ability.
Now I’m not one to show much pity on an MP who commits an act that is highly offensive to the public but I rather think on this particular case we have just lost an admirable Minister.
There are not many who would openly detail the mistakes they made or graciously step down from what is a lucrative career; especially when they have the potential of becoming Prime Minister.
Yes the Labourites are swarming around like bees on a flower but the truth is that Labour put Britain in its current immigration predicament with the Borders Act 2004; even a number of former Labour Ministers such as David Blunkett and Jack Straw have recently admitted it was a huge mistake to open Britain’s doors with almost no control over who may and who may not enter.
In all honesty I would ask the public and David Cameron to reconsider Mr. Harper’s resignation and allow him to be reinstated.
Again rarely would I show such compassion to a politician but it is clear that a number of simple and honest mistakes were made which could be merely attributed to his busy schedule and the human condition and at least Mr. Harper was forthright and honest with the Government and the electorate.
The bottom line here is that Mr. Harper has been open and completely honest about his mistakes and I’m wondering, considering the lack of morals and integrity within Parliament, as to whether an apparently honest Minister should have been forced to resign.