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Fraud Reduction

Volume 715: debated on Thursday 9 June 2022

We have spent taxpayers’ money on building counter-fraud services, including the counter fraud function, counter fraud profession and a data analytics hub. Her Majesty’s Treasury and the Cabinet Office are going further, spending £24 million on a public sector fraud authority, which will bring increased scrutiny to counter-fraud performance and build a broader and deeper expert service for public bodies.

The Labour party cost each individual hard-working taxpayer £500 a year through fraud and error when it was last in office. Can my right hon. Friend confirm what action he is taking to reverse Labour’s shocking legacy and oversee cost-cutting programmes across Government?

My hon. Friend is a doughty champion of the proper expenditure of taxpayers’ money, which we always remember it is; the Government have no funds of their own. We have announced significant efforts on the counter-fraud service, most recently with the announcement on the public sector fraud authority, which is part of a wider programme of £750 million. That spending is not a virtue in itself, but £1 spent fighting fraud brings a proper, bankable return to taxpayers by bringing wrongdoers to justice and getting money back, and that is what we will continue to do.

I could not agree more with the Minister. Let us have a bankable return for the taxpayer, because the Public Accounts Committee has found that £4.9 billion of money given in bounce back loans is fraudulent. What is he doing to get almost £5 billion back for the taxpayer?

I am glad to say we have Corporal Hindsight on duty in the Chamber this morning. The socialists were calling for bounce back loans to be issued faster, and therefore, inevitably, with fewer checks at the time. The public sector fraud authority is being set up and the fraud departments within Government are working with the British Business Bank and with banks—I have seen a number of them personally—to get them to use their systems to claim the money back from people who have taken it fraudulently. The Government take it extremely seriously, but the socialists must remember what they were saying a couple of years ago.

But what is my right hon. Friend doing about the internal fraud within the Government, caused by low productivity and bloated and dysfunctional public services?

My hon. Friend is a great one for holding the Government and the bureaucracy to account, and he is right to do so. That is why we are looking to significant productivity increases by reducing the size of the civil service back to where it was in 2016, to ensure that services are provided to the public efficiently and effectively. As we reduce the number, so there will be significant taxpayer spending on better technology, because the use of technology speeds up actions for citizens and reduces costs for the taxpayer.

The Leader of the House talks about socialists, but let us talk about the Conservatives. He will be aware that a Conservative peer is under investigation by the National Crime Agency over fraud. PPE Medpro, a company linked to Baroness Mone, was handed hundreds of millions of pounds in Government contracts during the pandemic. It is now reported to have been raided by the police, as has her home. There are serious questions about the due diligence performed on that company, so can the Leader of the House let us know what evidence they hold and why they are refusing to put a single sheet of it out into the public domain? What do they have to hide?

I should just say that he is no longer the Leader of the House. I know we all assume he is, but there we are.

I was going to point out to the right hon. Lady that business questions will follow in due course and that that would be her opportunity to raise such things with the Leader of the House.

Well, that was a way of deflecting from the actual serious question that the Government are not willing to answer because they know there is suspicion about the way in which they handled those contracts.

On the topic of protecting the public purse, as we speak this Government are frittering away almost half a million pounds a day on storing personal protective equipment unfit for human use. That is after £10 billion has already been wasted, alone, on unusable, overpriced and underdelivered PPE. In fact, useless PPE storage is costing the taxpayer nearly half a million pounds a day. Will the Government’s procurement Bill close the loophole and prevent cronyism from corrupting our politics and wasting public money?

These charges made by the socialists are completely false. They have no bearing on reality and they completely ignore what was the requirement two years ago. We needed PPE. There was a global shortage. Everyone in the world was buying PPE, and British manufacturing managed to turn round and supply it in unprecedented quantities. If I remember rightly from when I was Leader of the House, domestically produced PPE went from about 1% to well over 70%, possibly even over 80%. This was an enormous effort, and it has to be said that everyone was calling for it at the time, because it was urgent to protect people in care homes, in hospitals and in offices as masks and PPE were demanded and this was delivered. The right hon. Lady would have sat on her hands and done nothing, expecting it to take months and months to procure a single pair of gloves.