Scotland survives but reshuffle launched

Baroness Scotland’s career appears to have survived the controversy of her hiring an illegal immigrant, but Downing Street has launched a mini-reshuffle anyway.

Analysts were expecting her departure to force Gordon Brown into filling in a few remaining posts from the last reshuffle earlier in June.

But this morning the prime minister confirmed she would keep her job.

“Baroness Scotland has apologised unreservedly for her mistake. The UK Border Agency is satisfied she did not knowingly employ an illegal worker,” Mr Brown said.

“She examined documents of her status. She paid tax and national insurance on her earnings. She employed her new cleaner in good faith. But regrettably she did not retain copies of the documents proving the right to work she was given. As a result she is paying an administrative penalty.

“The government takes seriously breaches of this important protection against illegal immigration and as a result Baroness Scotland has made the fullest of apologies and paid the fine.

“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.”

This morning, Margaret Hodge was made culture media and sport minister and Barbara Follett was made parliamentary under-secretary of state in the Department of Communities and Local Government.

Last week it was revealed that the peer had employed a Tongan housekeeper who was working in the country illegally.

Embarrassingly for the government, Baroness Scotland was behind the recent law which makes it an offence for an employer to hire illegal workers – even unwittingly.

The UK Border Agency announced this morning it would be fining the peer £5,000.

Further revelations that the peer has received a second home allowance of £38,280 a year for the last five years – despite having her main home in the capital – meant many within Whitehall had predicted an imminent departure for the peer.

Speaking on the Today programme, Lib Dem home affairs spokesman Chris Huhne said: “Given the fact that Baroness Scotland is the chief law officer of the government, that law makers really cannot be law breakers, I think this is such an embarrassing case I think she does have to consider her position.”