§ Mr. Blair
To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security (1) whether the Benefits Agency requests the Prison Service to inform it if a person is received into custody in England and Wales;
(2) how much benefit he estimates was claimed fraudulently by prisoners in England and Wales last year;
(3) how much he estimates to be the total amount of benefit fraudulently claimed by prisoners in England and Wales between 1987 and 1992;
(4) how many fraudulent claims from prisoners in England and Wales have been reported by staff or the inmates themselves to the relevant authorities since 1987;709W
(5) what action has been taken since 1988 to close loopholes which may contribute to fraudulent claims for benefit from prisoners in England and Wales.
§ Mr. Burt
As with all referrals of benefit fraud, individual reports of benefit claims continuing after people have entered prison are always followed up, investigated where necessary and benefit terminated where appropriate. We do not, however, keep statistics to enable us to separate this type of fraud referral from other categories and are not, therefore, in a position to quantify historical losses.
In response to the continuing problem of benefit fraud amongst prisoners new controls were introduced on 4 March. The Prison Service now provides the Benefits Agency and the Employment Service with a weekly list of all newly convicted prisoners in England and Wales. This will ensure that all benefit recipients have their cases reviewed on entry to prison.
Furthermore, an exercise is being carried out by the three agencies to identify all benefits payments being made in the name of people who are currently in prison. Investigations will follow, benefit will be terminated where appropriate and recoveries sought in all overpayment cases. Prosecutions will also be considered in each case.
§ Mr. Burt
If a prisoner indicates on form F1113 that he was receiving a social security benefit immediately prior to his arrest the Contributions Agency informs the appropriate district office of the Benefits Agency or the Employment Services Agency, or both. However, new procedures now incorporate a full exchange of information between the Prison Service and the Benefits Agency so that all benefit claims will be reviewed on a person's entry to prison in England and Wales.