She wrote the law, then broke it. With Max Clifford now advising her former housekeeper, can Baroness Scotland survive?

Labour chiefs are braced for tomorrow's opening of their party conference to be overshadowed by damaging new claims about Baroness Scotland, the Attorney General, by her former housekeeper.

The peeress is fighting to save her political career after being fined £5,000 for breaking immigration rules when she hired Loloahi Tapui, a 27-year-old Tongan living in Britain illegally.

Ms Tapui has turned for advice to the publicity guru Max Clifford and is expected to give her side of the story in a Sunday newspaper interview to coincide with the first day of the Labour conference. Lady Scotland insists that she fully checked her new recruit's paperwork, including her passport, before employing her six months ago. After being caught, she likened the episode to not paying the congestion charge.

But the pressure on her to resign could become overwhelming if Ms Tapui's version of events differs from the Attorney General's. Opposition parties have already demanded her resignation, pointing out that she drafted the immigration legislation of which she fell foul. A ministerial aide in her department, Stephen Hesford, has quit his position in protest over her refusal to resign.

The Conservatives have questioned why the UK Border Agency investigation into the case was concluded so rapidly. Chris Grayling, the shadow Home Secretary, said its inquiry must be reopened if Ms Tapui contradicts Lady Scotland. Lady Scotland was fined after investigators discovered that she had failed to take photocopies of her employee's documents. She apologised for her "technical breach of the rules", paid the penalty and had hoped to ride out the storm.

Gordon Brown gave her his strong backing, but yesterday Downing Street was again forced to express his full confidence in his minister following internet reports that Ms Tapui would claim that Lady Scotland failed to study her passport.

Ms Tapui and her husband, Alexander Zivancevic, a Serbian-born solicitor, have been arrested by officers from the UK Border Agency. They were questioned over alleged immigration offences and released on bail until October.

Mr Clifford said the couple approached him because they were distressed by reports about the state of their marriage. "They have been together for years, they were living together for years before they married, and they go to the same church," he said. "The whole thing has been very upsetting for Lolo and for Alex. There have been some pretty dreadful things written about their relationship. So far no one has heard their version of events."

The ever-wily Mr Clifford claimed that the couple had yet to decide whether to go public: "They have made it very clear lots of things have been said that aren't true. We just have to wait and see what they decide." Ms Tapui stayed on in Britain after her student visa ran out five years ago and married Mr Zivancevic in May 2007. She is alleged to have used her marriage certificate as proof of her entitlement to be in the country.

The controversy over Lady Scotland proved an unwelcome distraction for Mr Brown as he flew to the United States for meetings of the United Nations and the G20 group of industrialised nations. Cabinet ministers have privately warned that her survival chances look bleak, but the Prime Minister has made it clear that he is determined not to lose her without a fight.

Mr Brown's spokeswoman insisted yesterday that he retained faith in his Attorney General. "The UK Border Agency did a thorough investigation into this issue and took the decision that they took," she said. "The Prime Minister's view is that he was satisfied with the report of the UK Border Agency."

High flyer: A glittering career

*Patricia Scotland was born in Dominica and came to Britain with her parents aged three.

*She and 11 brothers and sisters grew up in the east London suburb of Walthamstow. She was the only black child in her class.

*A careers adviser urged her to forget about law and apply instead for a job in a supermarket.

*She received her degree from London University in 1976 and was called to the Bar the following year.

*She was the youngest Queen's Counsel since William Pitt at the age of 35 and was the first black woman to take silk.

*Tony Blair made her a peer in 1997 and appointed her to his government two years later.

*She married fellow barrister, Richard Mawhinney, in 1985 and has two sons.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Technical Author / Multimedia Writer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This recognized leader in providing software s...

Recruitment Genius: Clinical Lead / RGN

£40000 - £42000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: IT Sales Consultant

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT support company has a n...

Recruitment Genius: Works Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A works engineer is required in a progressive ...

Day In a Page

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent