HC Deb 26 April 2001 vol 367 cc316-7W
Mr. Willetts

To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security when the Benefit Fraud Inspectorate's Annual report for 2000 will be published. [157484]

Mr. Rooker

[holding answer 9 April 2001]: The Benefit Fraud Inspectorate's (BFI) spending for 1999–2000 and expenditure plans for 2000–01 were included in figures reported in the Department of Social Security's Departmental Report published in April 2000.

The BFI's priority is to deliver reports following inspections of individual local authorities and DSS Agencies. The BFI is nearing completion of its phase 5 programme of inspections. This is a key phase which covers the 30 local authorities with the highest spend on Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit. Once the BFI has published the last of these reports, it will be in a position to provide a comprehensive report on its work to March 2001.

Mr. Willetts

To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security (1) for what reason the National Benefit Fraud Hotline number was not included in Level 1 of the current Targeting Fraud advertising campaign; how long each level will run for; and if the campaign will continue during a dissolution of Parliament; [157079]

(2) if he will break down the costs of the Targeting Fraud advertising campaign into (a) the cost of the pilot campaign, (b) the cost of television advertising, (c) the cost of radio advertising, (d) the cost of newspaper advertising and (e) other costs; [157074]

(3) how the Targeting Fraud advertising campaign has been altered to include the findings of the research into the pilot campaign. [157080]

Mr. Rooker

[holding answer 9 April 2001]: The Government are committed to cracking down on benefit fraud. In his report "The Informal Economy", Lord Grabiner recommended testing the use of advertising as a tool for changing public attitudes. The North West Pilot Campaign was developed during 2000 in line with this recommendation.

The overall objectives of the campaign, were to positively reinforce honest behaviour, to create a climate of intolerance to benefit fraud and to undermine the social acceptability of it. It was designed to work on two levels: Level 1, to make 'fiddling' harder to justify by showing that fraud is unfair; and Level 2, to create a climate of unease by using facts to build a fear of detection. Considerable development work was undertaken and the evaluation indicated that the campaign was effective in changing public attitudes towards benefit fraud. In taking the campaign to a national audience as part of a long-term public information programme, only minor refinements were considered necessary.

The national TV advertising did not include the hotline number because it was aimed at a wide audience and was designed to change public attitudes about the social acceptability of fraud (ie a Level 1 objective). Other material did include the hotline number because it was intended to create unease among fraudsters (ie a Level 2 objective).

The first phase of the national information campaign concluded on Saturday 31 March. The campaign will not run in the event of Parliament being dissolved under the normal rules relating to Her Majesty's Government advertising.

So far, the costs of the Targeting Fraud information programme have been £2.2 million for the north-west pilot, including production, media buying, website development and research. The costs for the March phase of the national campaign are £3.2 million for TV advertising, £0.6 million for radio advertising, £0.7 million for press advertising, and £0.2 million for other costs.