Former immigration minister referred to police over cleaner

The former immigration minister has been referred to police by a Labour MP, following his resignation over an undocumented immigrant he employed as a cleaner

Mark Harper said he held documentation about the cleaner's right to work for several years but misplaced it, at which point he asked for the details again only to find that she did not in fact have indefinite leave to remain in the UK.

Now Labour MP John Mann has written to the Bernard Hogan-Howe, commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, to ask him to investigate if Harper broke the law by employing the cleaner.

"When Mark Harper resigned as immigration minister over the weekend, it all felt like something of a whitewash," Mann wrote on Labour List.

Information from Mann's office suggested Harper may have contravened the Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Act 2006 if he did not hold necessary documentation showing his cleaner had a right to remain.

But the Act only came into force in 2008, a year after he started the contract with the cleaner. It would therefore not be applicable.

Harper could still be in contravention of the Asylum and Immigration Act 1996, however – a little-used piece of law which insists on employers retaining documentary proof of employees immigration status.

The law was considered overly draconian and rarely applied, but it may be the Labour MPs' chance of securing a police investigation.

However, Harper said the cleaner was self-employed, which would protect him against the requirements of the Act.

Some online commentators have suggested Harper broke the law in an entirely different manner – by checking the cleaner's documents too many times.

The Race Relations Act outlaws discriminatory checking of documents of someone if there is no reason to doubt their immigration status.

Harper's first check of the documents would be legal, but the second and third check might have contravened the law, unless he had good reason to believe the cleaner could be undocumented.

Such suspicions were not mentioned in Harper's letter to David Cameron, which focused instead on his own changing circumstances as an explanation for his repeated checks.

"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," he wrote to the prime minister.

"Given this focus on these matters, I thought it prudent to check that all my documents were in order for my cleaner."

The Mann request for a police investigation will concern Downing Street, which will have been satisfied by the broadly positive response to Harper's swift resignation on Saturday afternoon.