HC Deb 28 January 1997 vol 289 c146
9. Mr. Gapes

To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what estimate he has made of the annual cost of waste in the social security budget. [11377]

Mr. Roger Evans

The largest losses to the social security budget are the result of fraud. Stamping out benefit fraud and abuse remains our top priority. We have achieved record savings year on year and are on course, with the new "spend to save" initiative set out in the Budget, to save some £7 billion over the next three years.

Mr. Gapes

My question was about waste in the social security budget, not loss. Is it not a waste that 600,000 young people under the age of 25 are not in work? Is it not a waste that that costs the country £10 billion through crime, the cost of unemployment and the loss of income to those involved? Is it not a disgrace that the Government are doing nothing for young people? Only the Labour party has a programme to put 250,000 young people into work.

Mr. Evans

The hon. Gentleman's question was about waste in the social security budget. If we did not divine the precise focus of his question, it was not for want of asking him in advance. The fact remains that unemployment is falling, and the Government have a series of schemes to promote youth employment.

Mr. David Shaw

Will my hon. Friend confirm that the biggest ever waste in social security spending occurred when unemployment doubled in five years under a Labour Government? Will he also confirm that, in 18 years, unemployment has not become double what it was in 1979?

Mr. Evans

My hon. Friend makes powerful points, which I have no doubt are correct.