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Housing Benefit

Volume 81: debated on Wednesday 19 June 1985

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asked the Solicitor-General for Scotland how many prosecutions there have been in Scotland in the last year for fraud in relation to the housing benefit system.

Precise figures are not available, but inquiries with procurators fiscal indicate that there have been approximately 15 such cases.

I am interested to hear that reply. Is the Solicitor-General aware of the abuse of the housing benefit system by slum landlords in Glasgow? We understand that in some cases the abuse goes over the borderline into deliberate fraud. I do not expect the hon. and learned Gentleman to comment on individual cases, but will he give me an assurance that where evidence of fraud is obtained the full rigour of the law will be applied and the landlords concerned prosecuted?

I am aware both of the matters that the right hon. Gentleman has raised and of what was in the Glasgow Evening Times. He will appreciate that although the matter is not sub judice it would be inappropriate for me at this stage to comment specifically on the allegations that have been made. I confirm to him that although I am not in a position to make any comment immediately, he may take it that the matter is being carefully investigated.

Does the Solicitor-General know that since my days as a councillor in Glasgow there have been complaints about the company mentioned in the GlasgowEvening Times? The complaints are still continuing in my constituency. I have heard tales of people's belongings being thrown out on to tenement landings and of the locks being changed on the doors. Surely as a Minister of the Crown the Solicitor-General should investigate these matters. He should ensure that tenants are properly protected and that we do not go back to the Rachman landlord system.

Again, I have to say that it would not be appropriate to make comments on the particular company, nor do I know how long that company has been in existence. I emphasise that the reserve I place on my remarks is not idle. I am aware that serious allegations have been made, including those that involve harassment of tenants, which would be illegal under the Rent Acts.