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Girocheques (Reissues)

Volume 300: debated on Wednesday 5 November 1997

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To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what was the percentage increase in 1996 of reissues of girocheques (a) in total and (b) by social security office that involved losses to her Department; and if she will make a statement. [13021]

Responsibility for the subject has been delegated to the Social Security Agency under its chief executive, Mr. Chris Thompson. I have asked him to arrange for a response to be given.

Letter from Chris Thompson to Mr. Robert McCartney, dated 31 October 1997:

I have been asked to reply to your recent Parliamentary Question on the percentage increase, in 1996, of re-issues of girocheques.
The percentage increase in 1996–97 of re-issued girocheques to benefit customers in Northern Ireland which led to losses to the Department of Health and Social Services was 16.9 per cent. This percentage excludes 234 re-issues in 1995–96 and 982 re-issues in 1996–97 which are still under investigation. The percentage change for each Social Security Office is given in the attached table.
The main reason for the increase between 1995–96 and 1996–97 is that from November 1995, procedures in the Social Security Agency were brought in line with those of the Benefits Agency in Great Britain to reflect the legal position.
Case law in Great Britain on the treatment of claims and payments places the burden of proof on the Department to show that the customer has received benefit from an instrument of payment which has been lost or stolen. This means that the Social Security Agency cannot delay in making a replacement payment, for example, to await the trace encashment of the original girocheque. Within this procedure, all reasonable practical precautions are of course taken before a payment is reissued.
The Agency attaches much importance to the prevention of fraud and the use of taxpayers' money and, taking account of the concern expressed, is reviewing its existing procedures.
I hope this explains the position for you but I would be happy to provide any further information you require.

Number of girocheques re-issued with losses

Issuing office

1 April 1995 to 31 March 1996 Loss

1 April 1996 to 31 March 1997 Loss

Increase/decrease

Percentage

Antrim SSO2532+7+28
Armagh SSO2423-1-4
Ballymena SSO3460+26+76·4
Ballymoney SSO815+7+87·5
Ballynahinch SSO45+1+25
Banbridge SSO412+8+200
Bangor SSO3664+28+77·8
Carrickfergus SSO1967+48+252·6
Coleraine SSO4060+20+50
Cookstown SSO718+11+157·1
Downpatrick SSO4124-17-41·5
Dungannon SSO3034+4+13·3
Enniskillen SSO1936+17+89·5
Foyle SSO178213+35+19·7
Headquarters5857-1-1·7
Kilkeel SSO14+3+300
Larne SSO1216+4+33·3
Limavady SSO3635-1-2·8
Lisburn SSO3530-5-14·3
Lisnagelvin SSO2847+19+67·9
Lurgan SSO2223+1+4·5
Magherafelt SSO310+7+233·3
Newcastle SSO146-8-57·1
Newry SSO8273-9-11
Newtownards SSO4338-5-11·6
Omagh SSO2440+16+66·7
Portadown SSO3133+2+6·5
Strabane SSO3554+19+54·3
Andersonstown SSO138195+57+41·3

Casualties as a result of paramilitary style attacks

Casualties as a result of paramilitary style assaults

Casualties as a result of paramilitary style shootings

Total casualties as a result of paramilitary style attacks

Attribution

Loyalist

Republican

Total

Loyalist

Republican

Total

Loyalist

Republican

Total

Dates

20 January 1997 to 19 July 19974247892614406861129
20 July 1997 to 28 October 19971814329312271744

Number of girocheques re-issued with losses

Issuing office

1 April 1995 to 31 March 1996 Loss

1 April 1996 to 31 March 1997 Loss

Increase/decrease

Percentage

Corporation Street SSO241242+1+0·4
Falls Road SSO157144-13-8·3
Holywood Road SSO7958-21-26·6
Knockbreda SSO323200
Newtownabbey SSO3049+19+63·3
Shaftesbury Square SSO9569-26-27·4
Shankill Road SSO89132+43+48·3
Total1,7542,050+296+16·9