§ Mr. Edward Davey
To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security how much housing benefit fraud was detected in each London borough in(a) 1990–91, (b) 1991–92, (c) 1992–93, (d) 1993–94, (e) 1994–95, (f) 1995–96 and (g) 1996–97; and if she will make a statement.[35210
§ Mr. Denham
We have made it clear in our Green Paper "New ambitions for our country: A Contract for Welfare" that rooting out fraud is an essential part of welfare reform. Our principle is that the benefits system should encourage openness and honesty and that the gateways to benefit should be clear and enforceable. We have inherited a system which is seriously afflicted by fraud. As the Report by the Committee of Public Accounts on Housing Benefit fraud has shown, the old ways of tackling fraud do not work on their own. That is why we are completing a fundamental review of the Department's counter-fraud strategy and are looking to strengthen each part of it: earlier prevention, more effective deterrence, better detection. In the longer term, we can prevent fraud by designing benefit systems which minimise the scope for fraud.
Together with local authorities, we are already taking significant steps to address Housing Benefit fraud through, for instance: new powers for local authorities to tackle landlord fraud, and providing financial support for a special pilot local authority team in London which is already at work to root out organised landlord fraud across London borough boundaries; supporting new visiting drives by local authorities to root out fraud—over 392W £1 million is being provided to London boroughs this year which is expected to generate more than 200,000 extra visits; a new framework of guidance being introduced this year, backed up with extra financial support, to help authorities check claims better and so prevent fraud; the new Benefit Fraud Inspectorate, whose inspection programme which has started recently will help raise standards in local authorities and the Department; and improved liaison arrangements and systems between the Benefits Agency and local authorities.
Data on the amount of Housing Benefit fraud detected by local authorities were not collected centrally before 1993–94. Tables showing (i) the amount of weekly benefit savings claimed in respect of Housing Benefit fraud and (ii) identified incorrect payments of Housing Benefit due to established fraud for the years 1993–94 to 1996–97 for each London local authority have been placed in the Library.