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A few years ago the UK's Labour government decreed that cleaning contractors should in future be responsible for the work that was at that stage being carried out by those qualified to do it properly: checking that workers from overseas were actually eligible to work in this country. I can recall writing in more than one leader that it was a crazy idea in as much as forged documents could be so authentic that they could (and already had) fooled the most qualified eye into believing that they were valid. Heavy fines were threatened for contractors who would subsequently no doubt get it wrong and I argued that it was both unfair and ridiculous to expect them to take on this responsibility. My argument was quickly backed up when I subsequently ran a news story on the eight (I believe) illegal immigrants discovered working as cleaners in the Home Office itself!
The Immigration Bill was supported by our current Government and now we have lost a Government Minister who felt he should resign because he had failed to notice that he had in his employ a cleaner who should not have been working here.
Immigration Minister Mark Harper says he had made what he considered to be thorough checks when he first employed the woman to clean his London flat in 2007, taking a copy of her passport and a Home Office letter which stated that she had the right to work in the UK.
He said he considered the issue again when he was appointed Immigration Minister in 2012 but concluded that no further checks were necessary.
Apparently, a year later, when talks about employers carrying out ‘reasonable checks’ on workers focused him on the matter, he thought it a good idea to recheck his cleaner’s documents. Unable to locate them, he approached immigration officials who found that his cleaner did not have indefinite leave to stay or work in the UK.
Unlike most of our MPs these days, he did the ‘honourable thing’ and resigned (and for that reason alone I feel he was one of our better Ministers)!
I say again, if those responsible for making and upholding our laws on immigrants’ rights to work in this country cannot get it right, how can a contract cleaner be expected to know what’s needed?
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20th February 2014