HC Deb 23 March 1999 vol 328 cc147-9W
Mrs. Laing

To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security if he will estimate the cost of benefit fraud in Scotland in each year since 1992 in(a) cash terms and (b) 1998–99 prices. [77769]

Mr. Timms

The information is not available in the format requested. Such information as is available is in the table.

The Green Paper "Beating Fraud is Everyone's Business: securing the future" set out the difficulties of measuring a covert activity such as fraud.

Estimated fraud in Great Britain
£ billion
Confirmed fraud 2
Strong suspicion of fraud 3
Low suspicion of fraud 2

Kali Mountford

To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security when he will publish his strategy for combating fraud in social security. [78576]

Mr. Darling

I am publishing today "A New Contract for Welfare—Safeguarding Social Security", which sets out the Government's strategy for reducing fraud and error in the Social Security system.

When we came into office far too much money was being lost through fraud and error. Targets were set to find fraud but not to stop it happening, and safeguarding Social Security was too often an afterthought rather than an integral part of processing claims.

We are determined to focus on a single goal—reducing the amount of fraud and error. We will achieve this by getting payments right in the first place, keeping them right throughout the claim and putting mistakes right when we find them. We will make sure that we have a suitable range of sanctions, including prosecutions, to make those who steal Social Security realise that crime does not pay.

We have already made a good start and have set clear goals against which our success can be judged. By tightening the gateways to benefit and requiring more supporting evidence before benefit is paid we expect to save £1 billion in Income Support alone over this Parliament. We are providing an extra £100 million to local authorities so that they can make tougher checks on Housing Benefit. We are making greater use of new technology to share information between the agencies and councils paying benefits to improve service and to avoid duplication. We are helping local authorities to prosecute more cases of Housing Benefit fraud and have launched an independent review of how best to tackle the threats to Social Security from organised fraud.

We shall keep checking that our plans are working and we will review local performance to trace how well we are doing in each area. We have set a challenging target to reduce by 30 per cent., losses from fraud and error in Income Support and Jobseeker's Allowance, by 31 March 2007, with at least a 10 per cent. reduction by 31 March 2002. This will take sustained effort by all staff delivering Social Security. We know that they will rise to the challenge.

Our strategy builds on the work set out in the Green Paper published last July "Beating Fraud Is Everyone's Business: securing the future" (Cm 4012). The responses we had to the Green Paper were largely supportive and I am placing a summary of these in the Library today.

We are determined to root out fraud and reduce error in the Social Security system. It will be a tough job, but for the first time we have a systematic and deliverable strategy to reduce the losses from fraud and error and safeguard Social Security.