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Volume 959: debated on Monday 4 December 1978

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asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if his Department will take all reasonable steps in future to obtain compensation for the full amount from persons convicted of social security fraud;(2) why his Department demanded full compensation of the amount fraudulently obtained from social security in one case involving £775·10 in Sheffield magistrates' court, but not in another in the same court on the same day involving fraud of £2,585·32; when his Department claimed back only £292·31; and if he will make a statement;(3) to what extent it is to be the practice of his Department, in future, in the case of successful prosecution for social security fraud, following the example set in the recent case in Sheffield magistrates' court, to claim in compensation the whole amount fraudulently obtained by the convicted person; and if he will make a statement.

My Department's policy is to prosecute those who have fraudulently claimed social security benefits wherever appropriate and, if a conviction is gained, to seek the maximum compensation available through the courts. The amount of such compensation is, however, affected by such issues as the practical need to take sample offences, a court's view of a defendant's assets, and the time limits which apply to prosecutions under social security legislation.Where a court order does not cover the full amount of an established overpayment due to fraud, we can seek to recover any balance by civil process. The cases the hon. Member raises are being dealt with under that general policy.As I explained in my statement of 7th December 1977, we have made increasing use of compensation orders.—[Vol. 940, c.

745–48.] We are currently reviewing our policy and procedures in the light of recent legal rulings and subsequent discussions with the legal profession. We shall, however, not depart from our basic objective of seeing that those who seek to exploit the social security scheme do not profit by such behaviour.