HC Deb 19 July 2001 vol 372 cc418-9W
Mr. Webb

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will estimate, for each local authority, the total amount saved in benefit expenditure in the most recent year for which figures are available arising from anti-fraud initiatives; what this figure was as a percentage of the total expenditure on social security benefits administered by each local authority; and what his aggregate estimate is for Great Britain. [4062]

Malcolm Wicks

[holding answer 16 July 2001]We aim to ensure that all our anti-fraud initiatives are effective in combating fraud and error. It is not possible to quantify the precise savings arising from our anti-fraud initiatives. We can measure the amount of savings from fraud that we have discovered and estimate how much is saved by our preventive initiatives.

Mr. Willetts

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many staff have been employed at the Benefits Fraud Investigations Services, on average, in each year since 1997; and how many positions are vacant. [2259]

Malcolm Wicks

We set out our strategy for tackling fraud and error in the paper—"A New Contract for Welfare: Safeguarding Social Security" (CM 4276)—published on 23 March 1999. The overall aim of the strategy is to have a benefit system which is secure from first claim to final payment. The implementation of this strategy means that an anti-fraud focus is integral to the work of the Department, not just those staff involved in detecting fraud that has already occurred.

The number of staff employed in BFIS since 1997 is shown in the table.

Average number of BF1S staff employed in each year
1996–97 5,000
1997–98 5,184
1998–99 5,183
1999–2000 4,968
2000–01 4,914

There were 313 vacant posts in BFIS at 9 July 2001. We are in competition with a number of agencies locally for staff with the right skills, however, the number of vacancies is expected to reduce over the next quarter due to promotion and recruitment exercises currently being undertaken.