Baroness Scotland: The facts


It can only be a matter of time before Baroness Scotland is reshuffled into oblivion. The most interesting point – Red Rag made this point clearly yesterday – is that if the cleaner was in the UK illegally, she would not have had the right documents as specified in the Home Office regulations. So Baroness Scotland could not have 'seen the documents but neglected to copy them'. She could not have seen them at all, because they did not exist.

Failing to copy a document that you have seen and satisfied yourself is one thing. We can accept it as a 'technical' breach of the law (though a law that the Attorney General introduced, and a law that the country's leading law officer ought to understand – which might be grounds enough for her to resign). But failing to demand the right documentation in the right place is more serious.

The political class have closed ranks on this because they wonder how many of their own home helps have overstayed their student visas. But now, stories are coming out of small businesses that – for quite minor, unintended, and first-time oversights – have been raided by body-armoured UK Border Agency heavies and whacked with business-busting £10,000 fines. Give bureaucrats the power to bully us, and they will do so. The Baroness got off lightly.

If businesspeople – or baronesses for that matter – unwittingly break over-complicated rules, they should get a warning, not a visit from the Border Gestapo. If ministers invent rules that are so complicated they can't even follow them themselves, they should resign.

And these absurd rules affect all of us. For example, it's almost impossible now for a UK think-tank to hire interns from other countries thanks to Baroness Scotland's regulations. So much for cultural exchange.