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Benefit Fraud

Volume 526: debated on Monday 28 March 2011

We are taking all necessary measures to try to clamp down on benefit fraud—we are using the latest technology—and we regard this as a key area for progress. The introduction of the universal credit, which will provide better flows of information around the Department, will make it easier to reduce fraud.

Can my right hon. Friend confirm that his Department is not only sharing data with other Departments but using the services of credit rating agencies to detect fraudulent claims? Such claims not only unfairly burden the taxpayer but unfairly tarnish those in genuine need of help.

I can absolutely give my hon. Friend that assurance. The Welfare Reform Bill improves the flow of information and data sharing within the public sector. I can also confirm that we are now working closely with credit reference agencies—he will understand if I do not give too many details, as I do not want to give the fraudsters advance notice of what is coming.

The Minister will be aware that companies such as Atos Healthcare, which is French-based, are paid about £100 million per annum by taxpayers, yet in Scotland alone 40% of those deemed “fit to work” won their appeal. Does he think that that is a good use of money? Would it not be better used tracking down those who are avoiding paying tax in this country?

The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right to highlight the flaws in the system we inherited from his party when it was in government. We have taken steps to improve the process. The Harrington review was designed to ensure that we have a better and more just process, with fewer appeals being made. I agree with the hon. Gentleman about wanting to see the number of appeals reduced significantly, but it is the right of the individual claimant to appeal if they so choose.