Attorney General Baroness Scotland employed an illegal immigrant as a housekeeper, the Daily Mail has reported.
Baroness Scotland, who is the government’s chief legal adviser, employed 27-year old Tongan Loloahi Tapui for six months, the paper said.
However, a spokesman for the minister said she had employed the woman “in good faith”, believing she was entitled to work in the UK. Ms Tapui has now been dismissed.
Employers are under a duty to verify the status of their employees and the UK Border Agency regularly dish out on-the-spot penalties of up to £10,000 to firms employing illegal immigrants naming and shaming them on their website.
Knowingly taking on an illegal worker is a criminal offence punishable by a two-year prison sentence and an unlimited fine.
But a spokesman for Baroness Scotland said the minitser had “never knowingly employed an illegal immigrant”.
“She hired Ms Tapui in good faith and saw documents which led her to believe that Ms Tapui was entitled to work in this country,” the spokesman said.
He added that Ms Tapui, who is believed to have ‘lived locally and been married to a UK national’, was in registered employment before being taken on by the attorney general.
The woman was registered for tax and national insurance prior to her being hired and that tax and national insurance had been paid on her wages.
“At no stage prior to the matter being raised did Baroness Scotland believe there was any question over Ms Tapui’s entitlement to work.”
“Ms Tapui has now been dismissed with immediate effect.”
Shadow Home Secretary Chris Grayling said:
“This is a government that says all small employers should be prosecuted if they don’t know the immigration status of their employees and yet we have senior ministers who can’t be bothered to make the checks themselves.
“There is a real ‘one rule for them, one rule for us’ attitude at the heart of this government and it is a disgrace.”
Baroness Scotland was appointed Attorney General by Gordon Brown when he became Prime Minister in June 2007, becoming the first woman to hold the post.
The Cabinet Minister advises the government on issues of domestic and international law and attends cabinet when matters with major legal repercussions are discussed.
Prior to her appointment to high office she worked as a minister in the Home Office, during which time legislation cracking down on illegal migrants and imposing tougher penalties on business and individuals who employ them was passed.
Since February 2008, employers who negligently hire illegal workers have been liable for a maximum fine of £10,000 while those doing so knowingly face even harsher sanctions.
The then Home Secretary Jacqui Smith said the changes would make it easier for employers to carry out identity checks and would deter “slipshod recruitment methods”.
Lady Scotland has been a minister since 1999, serving as well in the Foreign Office and the Lord Chancellor’s Departments.
The BBC’s Political Editor Nick Robinson said the disclosures would be embarrassing for Mr Brown, given Baroness Scotland’s seniority and her ministerial responsibilities.
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