HC Deb 24 July 2002 vol 389 cc1555-7W
Mr. Frank Field

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what action is being taken to examine the records in the National Insurance record system to check whether they might relate to bogus identities; and how many records have been checked and over what time period. [69857]

Malcolm Wicks

[holding answer 15 July 2002]: The Department has access to the National Insurance recording system. However, it is owned and controlled by the Inland Revenue. The Department and the Inland Revenue already work closely and jointly address issues relating to National Insurance Numbers (NINOs) and identity fraud, through a number of working groups and inter-departmental bodies. Data matching already takes place between the Department and Inland Revenue.

Where the Inland Revenue's operational activity on individual cases suggests that there may be a problem with identity, these cases are sent to this Department's National Identity Fraud Unit for further action. Separate records are not kept of how many cases are referred in this way, or over what period.

Mr. Willetts

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, pursuant to his answer of 20 May 2002,Official Report, column 18, on benefit fraud, how many national insurance number applications have been (a) successful and (b) unsuccessful in each year since 1992. [64208]

Malcolm Wicks

An Enhanced NINO Process (ENP) for the allocation of NINOs was implemented nationally from April 2001. This has led to the tightening of all aspects of the processing of adult NINO applications.

Figures are not available for previous years but by the end of March 2002, 394, 044 applications had been received through the ENP of which 12,534 were refused and 2,141 were withdrawn.

Mr. Frank Field

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many records on the National Insurance record system, relating to bogus identities, were notified to via his Department's National Identity Fraud Unit in(a) 1999–2000, (b) 2000–01 and (c) 2001–02. [69860]

Malcolm Wicks

[holding answer 15 July 2002]: The Department has access to the National Insurance recording system under an agreement with the Inland Revenue. The Departmental Central Index (DCI) interfaces with the National Insurance recording system, enabling information relating to personal details, such as names, addresses and dates of birth, to be shared. The two systems broadcast details to each other when either system is amended or updated.

The National Identity Fraud Unit mark on the DCI all accounts where it can be proven that the application for a National Insurance Number was made using false documentation as proof of identity.

It is not possible to provide a breakdown of figures for specific years, or to say how many referrals were from the National Insurance recording system. This is because the information is recorded by reason for the marking, rather than the source of referral. However, the following figures include cases referred from the National Insurance recording system. To date 1,042 accounts have been marked on the DCI as false identities, protecting these accounts from possible future abuse. 16,435 cases have been marked as immigration offenders and currently 6,917 suspect files are being monitored for any activity.

When an identity is taken over with or without the co-operation of the individual the National Identity Fraud Unit examine and forward to the relevant sections such cases for account rectification or further investigation. They also monitor these accounts for future suspect activity. 3,000 such cases are currently being monitored.

Mr. Lilley

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what was the(a) total annual value of fraudulent benefit claims estimated on the basis of benefit reviews and (b) estimated total value of fraudulent claims by people adopting a false identify in the last 12 months for which figures are available. [69309]

Malcolm Wicks

We set out our strategy for tackling fraud and error in March 1999. At that time we estimated that around £2 billion is lost annually through benefit fraud in Great Britain. This is a broad order estimate, derived from estimates from the continuously measured benefits (Income Support and Jobseeker's Allowance), from National Benefit Reviews and from estimated levels of loss in the unmeasured benefits.

The latest estimate of the total annual value of fraud and error from the continuous benefit reviews is in "The Results of the Area Benefit Review and the Quality Support Team from April 2000 to March 2001: Fraud and Error in Claims for Income Support and Jobseeker's Allowance", a copy of which is in the Library.

The latest estimate of the annual total value of fraudulent claims by people adopting a false identity is in the Cabinet Office's "ID Fraud Study", published in July 2002. A copy is in the Library.

Mr. Love

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what estimate he has made of the level of(a) fraud, (b) suspected fraud and (c) error in (i) housing benefit and (ii) council tax benefit in each of the last 10 years; and if he will make a statement. [73539]

Malcolm Wicks

Information is not available on the level of fraud and error in Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit in each of the last 10 years.

The Housing Benefit Review (Main-stage report) from 1995 and the National Benefit Review 1997–98 provided very broad "snapshot" estimates of fraud and error in Housing Benefit. Copies of these reports are available in the Library. The size and nature of the samples in the estimates and differences in the methodology employed in the two reviews mean that it is not possible to compare their results with an acceptable level of statistical certainty.

We have now made a commitment to deliver a continuous, comprehensive measurement of programme loss for Housing Benefit. The Housing Benefit review, which is underway, will enable us to establish a baseline level of fraud and error.

We have recently announced a new target to aim for a 25 per cent. reduction in fraud and error in Housing Benefit by 2006.

Fraud Investigations
Prosecutions Cautions and administrative penalties as an alternative to prosecution
Year DWP Local Authorities DWP Local Authorities Total
1997–98 11,700 700 12,400
1998–99 10,238 800 2,835 13,873
1999–2000 9,124 860 11,029 390 21,403
2000–01 11,403 1,100 15,555 550 28,608
2001–02 11,183 1,700 13,551 2,600 29,034


1. Administrative penalties, as an alternative to prosecution, were introduced by the Social Security Administration (Fraud) Act (1997) with effect from December 1998. Cautions were made available to local authorities as a sanction from the start of 2001–02.

2. Figures for financial years 1997–98 to 2000–01 are taken from local authority management information returns. It is possible that there could be some double counting with DWP data if there were cases which involved a joint prosecution.

3. Management information data for financial years 1997–98 to 2000–01 is not available for all local authorities. The total for Great Britain includes estimates for local authorities that have not responded. These estimates are based on historical and regional data. This type of estimate is standard practice in reporting totals where there have been non-respondents. The figures for financial years 1997–98 to 2000–01 have been rounded to two significant figures.

4. Information for 2001–02 is from a count of prosecutions and sanctions completed by all local authorities; this data is collected from local authority subsidy returns. Subsidy data may differ from management information data (shown for financial years 1997–98 to 2000–01) at local authority level; however, analysis shows a high level of consistency between the two data sources at national level.

We had a firm target to reduce the level of fraud and error in Income Support and Jobseeker's Allowance by 10 per cent. by March 2002. By March 2001 we had already achieved an 18 per cent. reduction. We have now announced an increase in our target for March 2004, from 25 per cent. to 33 per cent., and we maintain our longer-term commitment to a 50 per cent. reduction by March 2006.

To achieve this, we are preventing fraud happening as well as detecting and punishing fraud when it does occur.