Fraud

Oral Answers to Questions — Social Security – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 23 January 1996.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Geoffrey Clifton-Brown Geoffrey Clifton-Brown , Cirencester and Tewkesbury 12:00, 23 January 1996

To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security if he will make a statement as to measures which his Department and agencies are taking to reduce social security fraud. [8789]

Photo of Peter Lilley Peter Lilley Secretary of State for Social Security

Last July, I announced my new security strategy to give new emphasis to prevention and deterrence of benefit fraud. That involves extra checks on benefit claims, matching of information on the Department's computers and the introduction of benefit payment cards to replace order books and girocheques.

Photo of Geoffrey Clifton-Brown Geoffrey Clifton-Brown , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

I thank my right hon. Friend for that excellent reply. Does he agree that the biggest personal fraud of pension funds was perpetrated by the late Robert Maxwell? Does he further agree that the biggest collective fraud of pension funds would occur if the Labour party ever got its stake on pension fund holders?

Photo of Peter Lilley Peter Lilley Secretary of State for Social Security

My hon. Friend makes a good point. I suppose that the late Robert Maxwell was almost the only socialist Member of Parliament ever to show a personal interest in private pensions, but my hon. Friend is right to sound the alarm bells at any Opposition suggestions that they want to get state hands on our pension schemes. The hon. Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Smith) and the Leader of the Labour party recently visited Singapore—the principal difference between whose system and ours is that the state controls pension schemes—because they want to get their hands on our successful private pensions, which are the envy of the rest of Europe.

Photo of Mr Keith Bradley Mr Keith Bradley Shadow Spokesperson (Business, Innovation and Skills), Shadow Spokesperson (Transport)

We welcome any measures that the Government may introduce effectively to tackle fraud, wherever it may appear in the social security system, but we question why, after 17 years in power, the Government have taken so long to introduce such measures. However, will the Secretary of State clarify exactly what his financial targets are for fraud? There appears to be a contradiction between the Budget Red Book figures and those in his uprating statement. Will he tell us today, therefore, precisely what his annual fraud figures are for 1996–97, 1997–98 and 1998–99?

Photo of Peter Lilley Peter Lilley Secretary of State for Social Security

My objective, which I spelled out in detail when I published the new anti-fraud strategy in July, was to reduce the fraud level by—we believe that this is possible—about 70 per cent. over a five-year period. To spell out a specific year-by-year path is asking a little too much of a Minister at the Dispatch Box. I can remind hon. Members that we have had no positive ideas on how to reduce fraud from the Opposition, who, in the words of the hon. Member for Sheffield, Brightside (Mr. Blunkett), have for too long been associated with the freeloader.

Photo of Mr Spencer Batiste Mr Spencer Batiste , Elmet

In his initial answer, my right hon. Friend referred to the social security card. What progress is he making with it? What will it consist of? Will it use new technology? What savings does he expect to make against fraud as a consequence of its introduction?

Photo of Peter Lilley Peter Lilley Secretary of State for Social Security

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for welcoming the card. We are in the advanced stages of reaching agreement and of choosing a final winner in relation to the private finance initiative plans to introduce the card. With it, we shall be able virtually to eliminate fraud and abuse of the order book system, which amounts to about £150 million a year. In due course, we hope to make savings in the administration of handling benefit as well.