Baroness Scotland to keep job despite illegal worker fine

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The Attorney General, Baroness Scotland, will keep her job despite being fined £5,000 for breaching immigration rules by illegally employing a Tongan cleaner. But the cleaner still faces investigation and possible deportation by the Home Office.

Apologising for what she described as a "technical breach" of the law, the Government's most senior legal adviser said yesterday that she had no reason to suspect that Loloahi Tapui, 27, had overstayed her student visa and was working illegally.

Baroness Scotland received the backing of the Prime Minister, who refused to bow to opposition calls for her dismissal. But pressure had intensified last night after she compared the £5,000 penalty for breaching the immigration law with a failure to pay the congestion charge. "This is a civil penalty, just as if you drive into the city and you don't pay your congestion charge or you overpay," she told Sky News.

The UK Border Agency said the peer had taken steps to check Ms Tapui's right to work but had not kept a copy of documents, as required under the rules which Baroness Scotland, a former Home Office minister, had helped to steer through Parliament.

In a statement released after the fine was announced, the Attorney General said: "I fully accept the findings of the UK Border Agency, that I made a technical breach of the rules, and I apologise for having made this inadvertent error. Having examined the documents which I was shown, I accept entirely that I should have taken copies of them and retained those copies and I accept it is my duty to pay the fine and I have done so."

Mr Brown, en route to the US for the UN and G20 meetings, said: "In line with the Ministerial Code I have consulted the Cabinet Secretary and, given the UK Border Agency is satisfied she did not knowingly employ an illegal worker and took steps to check the documents, I have concluded that no further action is necessary given the investigation and action that has already been taken by the appropriate authorities and her unreserved apology."

The UKBA confirmed that it was still investigating Baroness Scotland's former cleaner, who could face deportation for breaching the terms of her student visa and other immigration irregularities. In a statement issued yesterday, a spokes-man said: "The investigation is ongoing... The UKBA expects people with no right to be here to return home voluntarily. If people do not, we will remove them."

Ms Tapui married a solicitor, Alexander Krasic, in 2007 in Chiswick, west London, according to papers shown to Baroness Scotland.

Last night the shadow Home Secretary, Chris Grayling, accused the Prime Minister of dodging the problem. "After this, we can't see how Baroness Scotland can credibly stay in her job," he said. "She was the minister who steered this law through the House of Lords and who insisted upon its stringent application. She has no excuse for breaking it."

The Lib Dem home affairs spokesman, Chris Huhne, also called for Baroness Scotland to go. "Law makers should not be law breakers, and this applies even more to Baroness Scotland due to her special position as chief law officer. Her position now looks untenable."

The UK Border Agency began an investigation after the case was uncovered by the Daily Mail.

The agency's chief executive, Lin Homer, said the agency was satisfied that Baroness Scotland, "did not knowingly employ an illegal worker" and had taken steps to check documents "provided to her as proof of right to work in the UK".

But she added: "However, the law requires that employers must keep copies of documents proving the right to work in the UK and in this instance the employer failed to meet this requirement."