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Anti-fraud Activities

Volume 564: debated on Wednesday 19 June 2013

The National Fraud Authority estimates that the public purse loses more than £20 billion a year to fraud. That figure has been far too high for far too long. Last year, the Departments that engaged with the cross-Government taskforce that I chair saved an estimated £5.9 billion. However, we know that there is much more to do.

I pay tribute to the Minister for the billions of pounds of cross-departmental savings that he has achieved. In targeting that £20 billion, I urge him to look again at the risk-averse legal advice in Whitehall that is stopping data-sharing between the public and private sectors, because fraudsters who commit fraud against the private sector often do so against the public purse.

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for those remarks, for his interest in this area and, more generally, for the brilliant forensic work he does on the Public Accounts Committee to protect the taxpayer’s interest. He is right about the legal advice that is often given in this complex area of law, which is a mishmash of common law and statutory provisions. There are many opportunities to share data, which would protect privacy but promote the public interest by saving money. We need to look at that area and have a rather more open approach.

Will the Minister also consider the proposal to establish a register of private sector companies in receipt of public sector contracts that have been involved in fraud?

I will certainly consider that. We need to get much better at sharing information about fraud and attempted fraud both within the private sector and between the public and private sectors. That has been done far too little, but we are getting better at it. There is still much to do and I am grateful for the right hon. Gentleman’s thoughts.