Immigration minister’s resignation highlights 'stupidity of his own laws'
Published by Max Salsbury for 24dash.com in Central Government and also in Housing, Legal, Regulation
New immigration plan rewards return to home country
The resignation of the immigration minister demonstrates the "stupidity" of the laws he was introducing, a lettings agent has claimed.
Mark Harper MP resigned as government minister responsible for immigration at the weekend after discovering the cleaner he employed at his London flat did not have indefinite leave to remain in the UK.
Harper’s own Immigration Bill, which goes before parliament this week, forces landlords to quiz tenants on their nationality and to carry out ongoing checks on their immigration status.
Landlords who fail to comply will face prosecution, but research by the Association of Residential Landlords found that only one in five landlords feel confident in their ability to conduct the checks correctly.
Ajay Jagota, boss of North East property business KIS Lettings, fears Harper’s difficulties may soon be shared by landlords under the laws he designed.
Mr Jagota said: “Mark Harper seems to have behaved very honourably but in his resignation letter to David Cameron he admits he should have checked this woman's documents more thoroughly. Will this be an acceptable excuse for any landlords who end up in court because of his laws?
“The Immigration Bill places a huge burden on landlords to succeed where the man behind them failed – and the minister’s misfortune just proves the stupidity of forcing landlords to be a border agency on a budget.
“Responsible landlords could so easily fall foul of the Immigration Bill by mislaying one piece of the paperwork out of the thousands the government seems to expect them to keep track of, or because they themselves have been misled by their tenants.
“Mark Harper goes back to the backbenches with his reputation largely intact and a £8,000 golden goodbye – they’ll be off to court with their business in ruins.
“At KIS we’re preparing for these changes by working with insurance companies to develop policies to make sure our landlords are protected for every eventuality and by using our own software to make it impossible to overlook even one piece of paperwork. But the fact is, landlords should not be required to be cheap crossing guards.”
Meanwhile, Richard Lambert, CEO of the National Landlords Association, said: “Landlords are rightly nervous about having the responsibility for verifying an individual’s right to remain within the UK thrust upon them, and this unfortunate situation demonstrates exactly why that is. Whether Mark Harper would or would not have fallen foul of his own policy, he is right to say that, as the Immigration Minister, he should hold himself to a higher standard.
“If he could not reach the right conclusion on an individual’s immigration status, even after months immersed in the detail, what chance do landlords have of getting it right, especially when they’ll need to verify their tenants’ status regularly? You simply couldn’t make it up.
“The NLA said from the start that the system must be simple, straightforward and easy for landlords to use and understand. The Government must look again at what it is asking and give some serious reassurance to landlords across the UK that they won’t be punitively penalised should they find themselves in a similar situation of doing almost nothing wrong.”