Law Minister's Job in Doubt over Migrant She Hired as a Housekeeper

The Evening Standard (London, England), September 17, 2009 | Go to article overview

Law Minister's Job in Doubt over Migrant She Hired as a Housekeeper


Byline: NICHOLAS CECIL Chief political Correspondent

ATTORNEY General Baroness Scotland's career was under threat today after an investigation was launched into claims she employed an illegal immigrant.

Lady Scotland, the Government's chief law officer, sacked her Tongan housekeeper Loloahi Tapui yesterday after concerns were raised over her immigration status.

The Border and Immigration Agency is now investigating the case and the minister, who attends Cabinet, could be fined up to [pounds sterling]10,000 if found to have breached employment rules.

Shadow home secretary Chris Grayling said: "There is a big question mark over her position now. But we should wait for the outcome of the investigation before reaching any judgment." Lady Scotland insisted that she took on Ms Tapui, 27, in "good faith" after seeing documents to ensure she could work legally in the UK.

But even unknowingly employing an illegal immigrant can be an offence, if documents were not checked properly. A Border Agency spokesman said: "The Agency will conduct this investigation as they would any other investigation into allegations of illegal working."

Lady Scotland, the first woman Attorney General, had "notified the relevant authorities about the matter," her office said.

But she is under pressure to reveal what documents she checked before employing Ms Tapui as housekeeper at her [pounds sterling]2 million home in west London. The Border Agency specifies certain documents, including passports, which must be scrutinised.

Keith Best, chief executive of the Immigration Advisory Service, said that Ms Tapui's passport should have revealed to Baroness Scotland whether she was allowed to work or remain in the UK.

He said: "It seems to me inevitable that if these documents are not the documents that are specified in guidance then she (the minister) will face a penalty from the Border Agency."

Downing Street said Gordon Brown had "full confidence" in the Attorney General. The revelations, though, are deeply embarrassing to her and the Government.

Baroness Scotland was a Home Office minister in 2006 when tough new rules to clamp down on illegal working were taken through Parliament.

The case has apparently exposed a flaw in immigration controls, as Ms Tapui had a national insurance number despite apparently living in Britain illegally for five years having overstayed a student visa. …

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