Attorney General fined for hiring illegal worker

LONDON Tue Sep 22, 2009 2:18pm BST

Attorney General Patricia Scotland leaves her office in central London September 22, 2009. REUTERS/Luke MacGregor

Attorney General Patricia Scotland leaves her office in central London September 22, 2009.

Credit: Reuters/Luke MacGregor

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LONDON (Reuters) - Attorney General Patricia Scotland was fined £5,000 on Tuesday for employing an illegal immigrant as her housekeeper, fuelling calls from opposition parties for her to resign.

The UK Border Agency said that following an investigation it was satisfied Scotland had not knowingly employed an illegal worker and that she took steps to check documents provided by Tongan Loloahi Tapui as proof of her right to work in Britain.

"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," the Border Agency said in a statement announcing the civil fine.

Scotland, 54 -- who was a minister in the Home Office when laws were passed to impose fines of up to 10,000 pounds for bosses who employ illegal workers -- apologised for her mistake.

"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," she said in a statement.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown said the appropriate action had been taken and rejected calls that Scotland, who sacked the employee after it emerged she was in Britain illegally, should step down from her job as the government's top legal adviser.

"The government takes seriously breaches of this important protection against illegal immigration and as a result Baroness Scotland has apologised unreservedly," he said. "No further action is necessary."

But opposition parties repeated calls for Scotland to go.

"After this, we can't see how Baroness Scotland can credibly stay in her job," said Chris Grayling, Conservative spokesman for home affairs.

"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."

His call was echoed by Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman Chris Huhne.

"It is very, very difficult for her to stay," Huhne said. "For the person who actually drafted those regulations ... for a law maker to be a law breaker, puts her position in peril."

(Reporting by Kylie MacLellan and Adrian Croft; Editing by Steve Addison)

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