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Volume 743: debated on Monday 15 January 2024

Apologies for my hesitation, Mr Speaker. I was so busy listening to the heckling opposite that it was difficult to focus on what was going on.

This question is about something of which we should be very proud. The fact is that fraud ruins lives, but this Government have managed to get it down by 13% year on year, online and offline. It is extremely important that we continue with that ambitious agenda and ensure that we continue to cut fraud so that we can bring it down completely by the end of the Parliament.

Would my right hon. Friend agree that the key to reducing levels of fraud is to help people to understand what might be a fraud so that they are not taken in by it? Is there more that we can do to help people to spot the signs and not become a victim in the first place?

The question about what is a fraud is becoming all too prevalent. We have heard of many different kinds of fraud coming up in many different areas, which is why in a few weeks’ time we will, I hope, launch a new comms campaign about it. The truth is that fraud affects so many people in so many ways, and we are trying to make sure that people know what is going on so they can claim the help and support that they need, to make sure that we defeat this pernicious evil.

We simply do not have the resources or expertise to tackle fraud. I have a constituent who is still waiting for a charging decision five years after being the victim of fraud. Her retirement has been ruined waiting for the police and the Crown Prosecution Service to make the charging decision. Durham constabulary has a single forensic account. Does the Minister believe, as I do, that a lack of specialist resources is leading to unacceptable delays in justice?

I completely understand the hon. Gentleman’s point, and that is exactly why this Government have introduced a new national fraud squad—which is now almost fully recruited, at 400—and increased the funding available to forces to fight fraud. Some forces are doing exceptionally well at this already. Avon is doing extremely well and the City of London police is doing exceptionally well in leading on fraud nationally.