Mark Harper resignation letter: In full
Immigration minister Mark Harper has written to the prime minister to resign from the government after it emerged his cleaner did not have permission to work in the UK. Here is his full letter, and David Cameron’s acceptance.
Dear Prime Minister
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.
Mark Harper MP
Letter from the prime minister to Mark Harper
7 February 2014
Thank you for your letter earlier this evening.
I am very sorry indeed to see you leave the government, but I understand your reasons for doing so.
In particular, I understand your view that, although you carried out checks on your cleaner, you feel that you should hold yourself to an especially high standard as immigration minister. You have taken an honourable decision.
You have been a highly effective minister in the government – both most recently as immigration minister, overseeing the passage of the Immigration Bill with great skill and dedication, and before that as a minister in the Cabinet Office. You can be very proud of what you have achieved in government – and before that in opposition.
I have always enormously appreciated your energy and your loyalty. It is typical of you that you should be so mindful of the wider interests of the government and the party in reaching the decision that you have, and I am very grateful for that.
You will be greatly missed, and I hope very much that you will be able to return to service on the frontbench before too long.
With all good wishes.
David Cameron MP
Immigration minister Mark Harper quits over cleaner’s visa
Immigration minister Mark Harper has resigned from the government after it
emerged his cleaner did not have permission to work in the UK.
Mr Harper notified Prime Minister David Cameron, who accepted his resignation “with regret”, Number 10 said.
It added there was “no suggestion” the 43-year-old Conservative MP for the Forest of Dean had “knowingly employed an illegal immigrant”.
Fellow Tory James Brokenshire has been appointed the new immigration minister.
In his letter to the PM, Mr Harper said he would continue in his role as MP.
He explained he had made checks when he first employed the cleaner at his London flat in April 2007, taking a copy of her passport and a Home Office letter which stated she had the right to work in the UK.
Mr Harper said he considered the issue again when appointed a minister in the Cabinet Office in May 2010 and immigration minister in September 2012 but concluded “no further check was necessary”.
A year later, he said, he talked a lot about employers and landlords carrying out “reasonable checks” on workers.
Given this focus, he said, he thought it “prudent to check that all my documents were in order for my cleaner”.
Last month, after being unable to locate the documents, he asked his cleaner for further copies but when his private office checked the details with immigration officials, it was found she did not have indefinite leave to stay in the UK.
He was told this on Thursday and said in his letter that he immediately told Home Secretary Theresa May.
The matter was now with immigration enforcement, he added.
“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 said.
In his reply, Mr Cameron said Mr Harper had “taken an honourable decision” and he hoped to see him return to the frontbench “before too long”.
“I understand your view that, although you carried out checks on your cleaner, you feel that you should hold yourself to an especially high standard as immigration minister,” Mr Cameron wrote.
The home secretary said: “Mark has been an excellent minister and he can be proud of the role he has played in sharply reducing immigration to Britain.”
The Home Affairs Committee chairman, Labour MP Keith Vaz, said Mr Harper left an “impressive legacy”.
“The immigration portfolio is one of the toughest in government but he carried out his role with effectiveness and good humour,” he added.
Shami Chakrabarti, director of civil liberties campaign group Liberty, said it was the “nasty immigration politics”, not the politician, that should go.
“The vile Immigration Bill would turn landlords and vicars into border police, checking people’s status before offering them shelter or marriage services,” she said.
Referring to legislation that would impose charges on migrants needing NHS
accident and emergency treatment, the National Health Action Party said: “If the
immigration minister cannot check his own cleaner is here legally, how does he
expect hard-pressed NHS staff to check patients?”
BBC home affairs correspondent Danny Shaw tweeted: “Mark Harper will probably be best remembered for the ‘go home’ ad vans & measures to clamp down on benefit claims from EU immigrants.”
The vans referred to by our correspondent were launched under Mr Harper’s time as a minister and driven around parts of London carrying a message for illegal immigrants to “Go home or face arrest”.
The Home Office initiative resulted in few calls to the helpline number provided.
At the start of this year, when work restrictions for Bulgarians and Romanians were lifted, Mr Harper insisted the benefits system had been “tightened up” so people coming to the UK did so to work, not claim benefits.
Mr Harper was appointed immigration minster in September 2012. He has also held the post of minister for political and constitutional reform and shadow minister roles for defence and disabled people.
Before becoming an MP in 2005, Oxford University-graduate Mr Harper established his own chartered accountancy business in the Forest of Dean, in Gloucestershire.
Labour peer Baroness Scotland, the then-Attorney General, had similar difficulties with her housekeeper’s immigration status in 2009, but did not resign over the matter.
She was fined £5,000 for illegally employing an illegal immigrant, but a year later a jury found her housekeeper had duped the baroness into hiring her.
Junior Home Office minister James Brokenshire, MP for Old Bexley and Sidcup, has been promoted to the immigration brief.
Mr Brokenshire said in a tweet: “Honoured to have been asked to take on the role of immigration minister and to continue reducing net migration to sustainable levels.”
In a minor reshuffle, Conservative MP Karen Bradley will take up Mr Brokenshire’s former post; fellow Tory John Penrose will become a government whip in the House of Commons; and Harriet Baldwin, also a Tory MP, becomes assistant whip in the Commons.