MP quits over Scotland scandal

By Liz Stephens

A Labour MP has resigned over the prime minister’s decision to keep Baroness Scotland on as attorney general, despite the fine she received yesterday.

Stephen Hesford, MP for Wirral West, said in his resignation letter: “Whilst I have great personal regard for the attorney general, I cannot support the decision which allows her to remain in office.”

Mr Hesford was a government aide to solicitor general Vera Baird – who was widely tipped to take over from Baroness Scotland.

He said that, while Baroness Scotland may have been cleared of knowingly employing an illegal worker as her housekeeper, it was “the principle that counts”.

Mr Hesford said he believed that the decision to allow Baroness Scotland to retain her position would be damaging to the government, “particularly at a time when the publics’ trust of Whitehall is uncertain to say the least.”

Read the text of Stephen Hesford’s resignation letter.

The prime minister confirmed yesterday that the peer would be allowed to keep her job.

“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,” Mr Brown 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.”

However, yesterday 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.”

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 fined the peer £5000 for the civil offence of unwittingly hiring an illegal worker.