§ Mr. Rooker
[holding answer 2 April 2001]: We cannot join the Credit Industry Fraud Avoidance System (CIFAS) because it would entail DSS making data about claimants available to the private sector. Members of CIFAS seek their customers' consent to this. In the case of social security benefits, I am advised that making entitlement to benefits conditional upon claimants' giving consent to release of their personal data to organisations such as CIFAS would not constitute real consent, as the claimants often have no choice but to claim benefits from DSS. The alternative of releasing information only for those claimants that gave their consent would be valueless, as fraudsters would hardly be likely to give such consent.
However, we have set up a working party with the private sector to examine what information held by the DSS could be made available within existing legal constraints.
The National Hunter system is a computer software programme which checks for inconsistencies with respect to applications for mortgages. As we procure new IT we will build in the capability we require. The Department is specifying requirements and it is the suppliers' job to decide what form the solutions should take. The Department is deliberately not seeking to lead the suppliers in the direction of specific solutions.