Statutory Review of the Debt and Fraud Powers of the Digital Economy Act 2017

Cabinet Office written statement – made on 20th July 2021.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Lord Agnew of Oulton Lord Agnew of Oulton Minister of State (HM Treasury), Minister of State (Cabinet Office)

My Hon. Friend, the Parliamentary Secretary in the Cabinet Office (Julia Lopez MP) and I are announcing the statutory review of Chapters 3 and 4 of the Digital Economy Act 2017. Chapters 3 and 4 provide legal gateways which enable specified public authorities (and persons providing services to public authorities) to disclose information for the purposes of reducing debt owed to the public sector and combating fraud against the public sector respectively.

Cabinet Office ministers are under a legal duty to review the operation of both Chapters as soon as is reasonably practicable after the end of three years beginning with the day on which the Chapters came into force (1 May 2018) for the purposes of deciding whether they should be amended, repealed or retained in their current form.

To commence that review, we are today publishing the criteria by reference to which that determination will be made, in accordance with sections 53 and 61 of the Act. Those criteria are set out below.

To determine if the debt and fraud powers of the Digital Economy Act (2017) should be amended, repealed or retained in their current form, the following criteria will be used:

a) What has been achieved in the three years since commencement and how has the risk of fraud and debt changed? b) Have the powers been effective in managing and reducing debt owed to the public sector and in combating fraud against the public sector? c) What positive and negative impacts (including societal impacts) have the DEA powers had? Due to their different characteristics, separate criteria will be used for fraud and debt:

i) For Debt: have the powers led to improved management and recovery of debt owed to government authorities, increased fairness and better approaches to vulnerable debtors among such authorities and sustainable Business-as-Usual processes which allow recovered money to flow into the public purse? ii) For Fraud: have the powers led to improved identification, prevention and recovery of fraud committed against government authorities and sustainable Business-as-Usual processes which allow the prevention of fraud and recovered money to flow into the public purse? d) Have the powers contributed to the effective delivery of Government policy, helped support manifesto pledges and supported the maintenance of the integrity of the Union and devolved administrations? e) Have the powers enhanced the willingness of public authorities to engage with and utilise data sharing powers, reduced or created burdens for public authorities and/or given rise to any privacy concerns (such as in relation to reductions in privacy or the misuse of data)? f) Are there changes that can be made that would improve the effectiveness of the debt and fraud powers’ operations?

As part of this review, the Cabinet Office will include a consultation to obtain the views of all interested parties.

A copy of the Review Criteria is being placed in the Libraries of both Houses.