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Volume 712: debated on Monday 25 April 2022

Fraudsters should have no space to operate, and later this year we will publish our renewed strategy on how we protect the public and businesses, reduce the impact on victims, and increase the disruption and prosecution of fraudsters.

The Minister knows that fraud accounts for more than a third of all crime. Last year, Thames Valley police in Chiltern and South Bucks, which covers my constituency, had 194 Action Fraud victim care reports. One constituent told me, with great distress, that they had stopped reporting scams, because they think that Action Fraud has become a crime reporting agency and is no longer a crime investigation agency. We need a new service dedicated to effectively tackling online fraud, not just recording it. Will the Minister commit to establishing a new online crime agency to do just that?

I can confirm to the hon. Lady that we are making constant improvements to Action Fraud through the City of London police, and are also investing in a wholly new Action Fraud system for 2024. In the meantime, I encourage her constituent and all our constituents to report fraud. One particularly striking statistic is that more than 76,000 scams have been automatically taken down as a direct result of our constituents forwarding scam emails to the suspicious email reporting service.

In 2021, fraud and computer misuse increased by 47%. In 2020, an estimated 99.99% of total cyber-crime went unpunished. Just weeks ago, academics at the University of Oxford estimated that during covid alone, £37 billion—or one third of the total NHS annual budget, and twice the annual budget for policing—is likely to have been lost to fraud. When working families are facing rising energy costs and a cost of living crisis, and are paying more and more taxes and more for services, can the Minister tell me why, under this Tory Government, gangs of criminals are getting a free run at the public purse?

Gangs of criminals certainly do not get a free run, and we will be investing and doing more than ever before to bear down on fraud. During the covid era—the trend had started already, but it accelerated then—while other forms of crime got depressed, there was a boost to some of this distanced crime that people do over their computers. Crime overall across the world is changing, and our response must change in a way that is commensurate to that. We must ensure that we take the most effective action. Part of that is the spending review commitment that has just been made; there is also the new economic crime levy, which represents an additional £400 million over this spending review period.