A POSSIBLE return to the Cabinet by the Forest of Dean MP Mark Harper comes as no surprise to his rival who says “David Cameron will always look after his chums”.
The Conservative has been linked with a new mid-ranking Government role after stepping down as Immigration Minister amid revelations his cleaner did not have a permit to work in the UK.
Mr Harper, who was elected MP for the Forest of Dean in 2005, has played down reports that the Prime Minister will make him a mid-ranking minister in the upcoming reshuffle.
He said: “I have to say this is news to me.
“The Prime Minister made it clear when we had an exchange of letters when I left the Government that he did at some point want me to return but that of course is completely a matter for him and not for me.
“I have been getting on with doing my job as MP for the Forest of Dean and working on the back benches supporting my party in the House of Commons so we will have to wait and see what happens in the future.”
But his rival for the Forest seat, Labour’s Steve Parry-Hearn, claims it will appear to a number of constituents that the MP has got away with employing an illegal immigrant.
Mr Parry-Hearn said: “There still needs to be some scrutiny over that and feel it is classic hypocrisy at the highest level.
“I would not dream of glorying in his fall from grace but if he committed a misdemeanour who should step down, which he did. I think when he resigned he made the right decision but this is something between David Cameron and Mr Harper.
He said he bears Mr Harper no malice but he added: “I don’t think it is particularly appropriate that he has employed an illegal immigrant and it will seem he has got away with it.”
Mr Harper resigned from his post in February when it was revealed his self-employed cleaner for his London flat did not have the right to work in the UK.
He said he complied with the law and undertook a number of checks before the cleaner’s employment in 2007.
But it later came to light that she did not in fact have indefinite leave to remain the UK. He decided that, as Immigration Minister, who was taking legislation through parliament that he should return to the back benches.
His decision was commended by politicians “on all sides of the political divide”.
Conservative councillor Len Lawton, who represents Newent on Forest of Dean District Council, would fully support Mr Harper’s return to the Cabinet.
Mr Lawton said: “It was fully expected. His handling of the situation was marked and noted by all sides of the political divide as the correct and proper way to behave.
“He behaved honourably and correctly which was said at the time by all quarters.
“I know David Cameron was quite keen to see Mr Harper return to Cabinet and it is only a matter of time.”