Baroness Scotland to keep job despite illegal worker fine

Author: By Robert Verkaik, Law Editor

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.”

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