Page last updated at 16:33 GMT, Sunday, 27 September 2009 17:33 UK

Baroness 'did not see passport'

Loloahi Tapui
Ms Tapui's interview was brokered by publicist Max Clifford

The former housekeeper to Attorney General Baroness Scotland has claimed the peer never asked to see her passport before giving her a job.

Speaking exclusively to the Mail on Sunday, Loloahi Tapui, an illegal immigrant from Tonga, claimed she was given work after a 10-minute interview.

Baroness Scotland - fined last week for failing to take copies of Ms Tapui's documents - insists she saw a passport.

Gordon Brown has continued to back her, saying she acted in "good faith".

But Tories say the row has rendered her position "completely untenable".

Shadow Home Secretary Chris Grayling said: "The Home Office rushed through an investigation without listening to all the evidence, and the prime minister exonerated Lady Scotland before the housekeeper had even been questioned.

"This is increasingly looking like an attempted whitewash that has gone badly wrong."

I was shown all relevant documents by Ms Tapui during her job interviews
Baroness Scotland

The Attorney General was fined £5,000 after falling foul of laws passed when she was a home office minister.

Speaking to the BBC's Andrew Marr show, the prime minister said the case was a "serious issue" but added: "Baroness Scotland acted in good faith at all times.

"She did not hire someone she knew to be an illegal worker."

Immigration Minister Phil Woolas also called for the "political row" to be halted, saying Baroness Scotland's fine was the "end of the matter".

Ms Tapui's interview was brokered by publicist Max Clifford.

In it, the 27-year-old insists a passport - reported to contain a forged and out-of-date visa - found in her West London home during a raid by UK Border Agency officials is the only one she possesses.

She says she has been in Britain illegally for five years, since her student visa ran out, and is prepared to take a lie-detector test to prove she is telling the truth.

"I do not understand why [Baroness Scotland] said that she saw my passport because I know I'm illegal," she tells the Mail on Sunday.

"Why [would] I provide my passport because I know [that if I did] I would not get employed by her."

'Checks made'

In a statement, the Attorney General said: "I was shown all relevant documents - a P45, National Insurance details, a marriage certificate, a letter from the Home Office, references and a passport - by Ms Tapui during her job interviews."

A Downing Street source added that the case had been thoroughly investigated by the UK Border Agency, which found "the employer took steps to check documents provided to her as proof of right to work in the UK".

Legal commentator Joshua Rozenberg said he did not believe the row would lead to Baroness Scotland losing her job because there was no evidence to suggest she was lying.

"It doesn't really matter whether Ms Tapui produced her passport or not," he added, pointing out that it would have been enough under law for the Baroness to have seen her P45 and Home Office letter.

Labour MP Stephen Hesford resigned as a parliamentary aide to her department on Thursday, saying he could not support the decision to allow the Baroness to remain in office.

The debate over her future comes as Baroness Scotland is to be named as the most influential person in Britain's black community in the second annual edition of The Powerlist.

The list, which is compiled by a panel, features the 100 most powerful people of African and Caribbean heritage in their fields.

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