§ Malcolm Wicks
We set ourselves a firm Public Service Agreement target to make a 10 per cent. reduction in the level of fraud and error in Income Support and Jobseeker's Allowance by March 2002. By September 2001 we had achieved a 24 per cent. Reduction—more than double the target.
We have now announced an increase in our target for reducing fraud and error in Income Support and Jobseeker's Allowance for working age customers by 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. We have also announced a new target of a 25 per cent. reduction in fraud and error in Housing Benefit by 2006.
In April we introduced a range of measures using powers taken in the Fraud Act 2001 which will help us tackle fraudsters. For example, investigators can now request information from banks and utilities to find evidence of fraud and they have stronger powers to tackle employers who collude with their staff to defraud the benefit system. We now also have the power to remove benefits from those people who persistently abuse the system.
These new powers will help us continue our fight to make sure that the right benefits go to the right people. They are also sending out the clear message to fraudsters that they will not get away with it.