HC Deb 26 October 2001 vol 373 cc438-9W
Mr. Webb

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (1) if he will estimate the total advertising costs for anti-benefit fraud campaigns in financial years(a) 1997–98, (b) 1998–99, (c) 1999–2000 and (d) 2000–01; [7577]

(2) if he will estimate the total advertising cost for the Targeting Fraud campaign. [7578]

Mr. Nicholas Brown

"The Informal Economy—A Report by Lord Grabiner QC" (published March 2000), proposed that we test the use of advertising as a tool for changing public attitudes towards benefit fraud. We responded by piloting the Targeting Fraud advertising campaign in the north-west. Expenditure on this was £2.2 million spanning the financial years 1999–2000 and 2000–01. The success of the pilot campaign led to the launch of the national Targeting Fraud campaign. The initial spell of advertising in March 2001 cost £4.6 million and a forecast £9 million will be spent on the campaign running from September 2001 to March 2002.

Around £400,000 is currently spent each year to promote the National Benefit Fraud Hotline, including the Shared Fraud Hotline pilot.

These campaigns are part of a long-term strategy to reinforce our message that benefit fraud is wrong, unfair and will not be tolerated.

Mr. Willetts

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what checks are undertaken on benefit claimants who arrive in the UK from abroad to establish if they have been found guilty of benefit fraud in the country they have left. [10479]

Malcolm Wicks

A conviction for benefit fraud in another country does not affect entitlement to benefits in this country. Therefore this would not be checked when a claim to benefits is made.

Mr. Willetts

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if private fraud investigators contracted by local authorities have the same access to Department for Works and Pensions staff as in-house local authority fraud investigators. [10480]

Malcolm Wicks

The Department's staff work with contracted out local authority fraud investigators in the normal way as long as we are satisfied that proper protocols are observed and that all legislative constraints are adhered to.

Mr. Willetts

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what measures he intends to take to combat fraudulent benefit claims from people who spend the majority of the year abroad, once compulsory automated credit transfer is introduced. [10414]

Malcolm Wicks

Automated Credit Transfer (ACT) is already chosen by nearly 40 per cent. of benefit recipients to access their benefit payments via bank accounts.

The introduction of ACT as the Department's normal method of payment should result in the virtual eradication of Order Book and Giro fraud losses.

The Department has undertaken research to assess the level of fraudulent benefit claims from people who are abroad; contrary to the regulations for certain benefits. Research shows that where there are instances of fraud, it is low both in number and value.

Deciding on counter-measures will depend on whether research reveals there are significant extra risks associated with ACT and their exact nature and extent. Research is on-going, and the situation will continue to be under review.

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