Social Security (Waste)

Oral Answers to Questions — Social Security – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 2nd June 1997.

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Photo of Mr Andy King Mr Andy King Labour, Rugby and Kenilworth 12:00 am, 2nd June 1997

To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security if she will make a statement on the level of waste in the social security system. [877]

Photo of Frank Field Frank Field Minister (Department of Social Security) (Welfare Reform)

The Government will act resolutely against fraud.

Photo of Mr Andy King Mr Andy King Labour, Rugby and Kenilworth

I congratulate my right hon. Friend on his well-deserved appointment as Minister for Welfare Reform

Photo of Mr Andy King Mr Andy King Labour, Rugby and Kenilworth

Thank you.

Will my right hon. Friend confirm that the Government will not tolerate so many people struggling to make ends meet while so many others are taking advantage of the social security system? What will the Government do to tackle fraud and bring back public confidence and support for the social security system? No reading there.

Photo of Frank Field Frank Field Minister (Department of Social Security) (Welfare Reform)

Also, no reading here. I am grateful for my hon. Friend's question—

Photo of Frank Field Frank Field Minister (Department of Social Security) (Welfare Reform)

As the right hon. Gentleman was a Minister with responsibility for schools, I had hoped for a better intervention than that.

I hope that, by the end of this Parliament, the House will see that we have achieved two clear objectives: first, to re-secure confidence in our social security system, by ensuring that those who are eligible claim; and, secondly, by preventing those who are claiming benefit wrongly from doing so. The House will therefore see a somewhat different strategy from that employed by the previous regime.

I compliment the previous Secretary of State on the preliminary work that he did in this area, but hope that very shortly he will see a redeployment of our staff so that we concentrate on areas where fraud is greatest. Only two London boroughs, to my knowledge—Haringey and Lambeth—have undertaken surveys on landlord fraud, and both are to be congratulated. Both boroughs looked at landlords who are drawing a considerable amount of benefit. Looking at the worst offenders, in both boroughs, some 65 per cent. of claims were fraudulent. We shall redeploy our resources so that the biggest gains are made for taxpayers, rather than unnecessarily roughing up individual claimants.

Photo of Edward Garnier Edward Garnier Conservative, Harborough

Will the Prime Minister's plans, which were trailed over the weekend, save the social security system money, or will they cost it money, and by how much in either case?

Photo of Frank Field Frank Field Minister (Department of Social Security) (Welfare Reform)

One crucial part of the speech that was trailed, rather inaccurately, over the weekend—[HON. MEMBERS: "Ah!"] Opposition Members have to wait only a short while and the speech will be published. It concerns our plans to give those who are 18 to 25 and unemployed, a chance to be employed. The moneys for that programme will be raised by the windfall tax in the Chancellor of the Exchequer's Budget. In that sense, in the immediate future, the plans will cost money. In the long run, the Labour party believes that putting people back to work will save money.