§ Mr. Andrew Turner
To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what powers exist to recover benefits paid to those ineligible to receive such benefits by reason of(a) fraud and (b) mistake. 
§ Malcolm Wicks
[holding answer 16 October 2001]: Where an overpayment has arisen as a result of a claimant's misrepresentation or failure to disclose a change of circumstances, section 71 of the Social Security Administration Act 1992 allows recovery of that overpayment. This covers most of the overpayments we seek to recover. However, there are also other regulations permitting recovery of overpayments, for example, where means-tested benefits are overpaid due to the late payment of income or other benefits.
The Department's policy is to obtain recovery of the sum overpaid as quickly as possible, and by the most cost-effective method, without causing hardship.
Where the person overpaid receives benefit, deductions can be made from future payments of that benefit. The Social Security (Payments on Account, Overpayments and Recovery) Regulations 1998 place restrictions on those deductions, including limits on the amount which can be deducted from certain benefits. The regulations allow higher rates of recovery to be made in cases of fraud.
For those not in receipt of benefit, voluntary arrangements are sought in the first instance. Where voluntary arrangements are unsuccessful or break down, civil proceedings will be considered.