British immigration minister Mark Harper has resigned
after discovering a cleaner he employed was not legally allowed
to work in the country, Prime Minister David Cameron's office
The issue will be an embarrassment for Cameron's
Conservative-led government which has pledged to bring down
the number of immigrants to below 100,000 a year by 2015.
Trailing in the polls ahead of European elections in May and
national polls next year, Cameron is striving to stem a
right-wing threat from the anti-immigration UK Independence
Cameron had accepted the resignation with regret, his office
said. "There is no suggestion that Mr Harper knowingly
employed an illegal immigrant," the statement read.
In an exchange of letters with Harper, dated Friday (local
time) and released by Downing Street, Cameron said: "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."
Harper was elected Conservative MP for the Forest of Dean in
Gloucestershire in 2005 and was appointed immigration
minister in 2012. He was told that the cleaner did not have
indefinite leave to remain the UK earlier this week, he said.
He added in his resignation letter to Cameron that he had
checked the cleaner's immigration status when he first
employed her in 2007.
"When you then appointed me as Immigration Minister ... I
went through a similar consideration process and once again
concluded that no further check was necessary," he added. "In
retrospect, I should have checked more thoroughly."
Harper will stay on as a member of parliament.