§ Mr. Arthur Lewis
asked the Secretary of State for Social Services, in view of the statement made by Judge 352W Anthony Lewisohn at the Old Bailey on Wednesday 8 December, concerning the cost to public funds of £254,000 through fraudulent social services claims, whether he will implement the wishes of the learned judge to prevent the waste of public money through fraudulent claims and the legal costs involved in court cases; and what were the actual costs in total in this case.
§ Mr. Rossi
In his comments Judge Lewisohn suggested changes in the Department's method of paying benefits by means of order books. In particular he considered that the risk of fraud could be lessened by requiring claimants to sign the cover of an order book at the time of its issue and by printing all orders in a form similar to travellers cheques. The authorised holder of the book would then be required to sign all the foils immediately on receipt of the book and to sign again at the time of encashment of each foil.
Judge Lewisohn's comments are being carefully considered and his suggestions evaluated. I am as anxious as his honour to prevent the loss of public money through fraudulent claims but this must be reconciled with the need to ensure that honest claimants are not hindered in receiving their benefits and that the administrative costs of making payments do not become excessive.
The widespread nature of the investigations, which were spread over a period of some two years and involved various police authorities throughout the country as well as officers of this Department, means that the actual total costs in this case could be obtained only at disproportionate cost.