FOREST of Dean MP, Mark Harper, has resigned from his role as Immigration Minister after employing an illegal immigrant.
He handed his notice into the Prime Minister today after being told his cleaner did not have leave to remain in the UK.
Mr Harper said he was shown documents by his cleaner that claimed she was allowed to be in the country and there is no suggestion he knowingly employed her illegally.
However, he said he was sorry for any embarrassment caused to the Government and would return to the backbenches.
In his letter he wrote: “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.”
The Tory MP took on the cleaner for his London flat in April 2007 and said when he did so he took a copy of her passport and a letter from the Home Office, which he said claimed she had a right to be in and work in the country.
He said he even checked her documents when he became a Minister in May 2010.
His letter added: “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.”
Mr Cameron replied: “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.”
Home Secretary Theresa May said: "Mark has been an excellent minister and he can be proud of the role he has played in sharply reducing immigration to Britain.
"He has been a first-rate colleague and his decision reflects his loyal commitment to the Conservative Party, the Government and the Prime Minister.
"I am extremely sorry to lose him from the Home Office but I am confident that he will be able to bring his considerable talents to government as a minister again in future."
In a limited reshuffle, junior Home Office minister James Brokenshire has replaced Mr Harper as Minister of State, while Karen Bradley moves from the whips office to fill his role.
John Penrose is promoted within the whips office to replace Ms Bradley and Harriet Baldwin is brought into the Government ranks as a junior whip.
Mr Cameron has faced Labour attacks in recent days over his failure to promote women.