Thursday, 17 September 2009

Serves her right

Baroness Patricia Scotland broke the law when she employed a woman who, it turns out, was not legally entitled to work in Britain. A law she should know about: not just because she was one of the youngest ever QCs, nor because now, as Attorney General, she is the government's own in-house lawyer, but because she was a minister in the Home Office when the law was passed.

She says she did nothing wrong. She maintains that she took all reasonable steps to ascertain the status of her employee. I believe her. And even if there was more that she could have done, as a private person with a very busy life to lead - what with the vast, ill-scrutinised chunks of legislation it was her job to coax through an often sceptical House of Lords - her failure to pursue her Polynesian housekeeper with the dedication of a full-time immigration officer is only to be expected. One might even call it admirable. I mean, what sort of demented control-freak naturally assumes everyone they come across is a probable criminal out to cheat the system?

Oh yes, I forgot. New Labour.

Lady Scotland did everything that might naturally be expected of her. The trouble is, under the typically mean-spirited, illiberal, guilty-until-proven-innocent law she helped put onto the statute book, acting like a rational human being is no defence. The law places a woman employing a nanny in exactly the same position as a multinational corporation. But of course, the law isn't there to help human beings with normal lives do the right thing. It's designed to trap the unwary and then fine the pants off them. So now she finds herself under investigation by the Border Control Agency (itself a quintessential piece of New Labour Stasism), facing a possible fine of £10,000.

Now it may be that the fine won't materialise, that the BCA will discover that there's no public interest in bringing a complaint. I'm not Derren Brown, so I can't make predictions. But she should certainly suffer. Not because she's guilty of knowingly employing an illegal immigrant. But because she's guilty of knowingly passing the ridiculous law that she innocently violated. Along, of course, with many other laws that are even worse.