HC Deb 28 January 2002 vol 379 c20
12. Angela Watkinson (Upminster)

What progress has been made in reducing benefit fraud since June 2001. [28152]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Malcolm Wicks)

As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State made clear earlier, we have already delivered an 18 per cent. reduction in the level of fraud and error in the payment of income support and the jobseeker's allowance—that is against a target of 10 per cent—and we expect that good progress to continue. From April, we will begin to implement new powers in the Social Security Fraud Act 2001 which will further strengthen our fight against fraud.

Angela Watkinson

The level of benefit take-up in my constituency is remarkably low compared with the level of need, which is due in part to the complexity of the application process and to the complexity of individuals' own circumstances. Does the Minister recognise the strong link between the reduction in benefit fraud and the release not only of additional funds for genuine claimants but, as my hon. Friend the Member for Wycombe (Mr. Goodman) pointed out earlier, of additional time to enable social security staff to deal with the very complex needs of genuine claimants?

Malcolm Wicks

The purpose of Jobcentre Plus is to do precisely that. We need to ensure that everyone behaves responsibly by claiming only the benefit to which they are entitled and no more, and that everyone is clear about the fact that they have the right to claim their entitlement. That is our aim throughout our entire modernisation programme. However, let there be no mistake—fraud is a major problem. We are not complacent, but the targets have been exceeded and we are beginning to win the war against the fraudster. The whole House must join in that endeavour, so that the money raised by taxpayers can be spent on the priorities, not on the fraudster.