Gordon Brown's most senior law officer was plunged into a fresh row over her breach of immigration laws last night, when her former housekeeper claimed she was hired without ever having to produce a passport.
Tongan Loloahi Tapui opened a war of words with Baroness Scotland with the potentially devastating allegation that she did not show a passport when she was employed to work for the Attorney General in January – and said she was never asked to do so.
The allegation, in an interview with the Mail on Sunday, flatly contradicts Lady Scotland's account of an affair which has cast heavy doubt on her chances of clinging to her place in Mr Brown's Cabinet.
Lady Scotland was fined £5,000 last week for employing 27-year-old Ms Tapui, an illegal immigrant who overstayed her visa. The penalty was imposed because the Baroness failed to take a copy of Ms Tapui's documents when she employed her.
Mr Brown has so far rejected calls to sack Lady Scotland, even though, when she was a Home Office minister, she introduced the law that she has now broken.
The Mail on Sunday also claimed that UK Border Agency officials found a Tongan passport belonging to Ms Tapui when they raided her flat last week, but that a visa it contained, apparently entitling her to work in the UK, had been forged – and in any case was out of date when Lady Scotland took her on.
Baroness Scotland responded to the fresh allegations by insisting she had seen Ms Tapui's passport, along with a series of other documents. She said, in a statement: "I was shown all relevant documents – P45, National Insurance details, a marriage certificate, a letter from the Home Office, references and a passport by Ms Tapui during her job interview. I have nothing further to add."
Ms Tapui, who was paid just £6 an hour – 33 per cent below the going London rate, and just 27p above the minimum wage – said she was prepared to take a lie-detector test to prove she was telling the truth.