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Jobseeker’s Allowance

Volume 447: debated on Monday 12 June 2006

12. What recent assessment he has made of the level of overpayment of jobseeker’s allowance; and if he will make a statement. (76104)

I am grateful for that question. We have significantly reduced the level of overpayment of jobseeker’s allowance. The overpayment level that we inherited in 1997 represented 13.2 per cent. of JSA expenditure. I am happy to tell the hon. Gentleman that the latest estimate is that, thanks to our measures, the loss is down to 6 per cent. of JSA expenditure. We will not stop there—we shall continue to strive to reduce that even further.

I thank the Minister for his response, but is not the true story that, since the 1997 general election, 910 million overpayments have been made? Will he reassure hon. Members that, with rising unemployment—44,000 jobs lost in the previous quarter ending in March—JSA overpayments will be reduced further? The Department appears to be managed incompetently when so much money is being given away unjustifiably.

I think that our record speaks for itself. When the Conservatives were in government, they did not accurately measure what was going on—that is how bothered they were about the issue. We have far more robust systems of measurement in place, however. The hon. Gentleman has asked me for more information and reassurance, so let me break down the figures for him. The level of loss in jobseeker’s allowance to fraud in 1997 was £300 million; last year, it was £50 million. In 1997, the level of loss in JSA to official error was £150 million; last year, it was £50 million. That illustrates the progress that we are making, and we shall continue to make it.