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Mr. Rooker: After years of neglect, we are getting to grips with Social Security fraud. We are implementing a strategy to tighten up the system and make sure that from the very first claim, the right benefits are going to the right people at the right time. We have set ourselves firm targets to reduce the losses from fraud and error in Income Support and Jobseeker's Allowance by 25 per cent. by March 2004, and 50 per cent. by March 2006.
8 Feb 2001 : Column: 698W
We have saved more than £150 million over two years by cross-checking departmental records with information from other Government Departments. More than 22,000 people were sanctioned or prosecuted in 1999-2000, an increase of nearly 60 per cent. on the previous year. We published figures last November which showed that losses from fraud and error in Income Support and Jobseeker's Allowance had fallen for the first time, a saving of around £60 million.
We continue to invest to help local authorities root out Housing Benefit fraud. We have provided over £100 million since 1998 so that local authorities can implement the verification framework which protects the gateway to benefit by setting out minimum standards for collecting evidence before claims are paid. Over 350 councils are now using the Royal Mail scheme to stop benefit cheques being redirected from the address they have been claimed for.
Our £2 million programme to make better use of IT has given 404 local authorities on-line access to essential benefit information held on departmental systems, reducing the scope for fraud and error. We are now building on this through the integrated inquiry service, which will give authorities access to further information to help combat fraud, including the Department's database of National Insurance numbers. Our new anti-fraud incentive scheme is being phased in from April and will make the gateway to Housing Benefit more secure, putting the focus on prevention as well as detection. The new scheme sets out the anti-fraud activities we expect local authorities to undertake, and it introduces new financial rewards for authorities that act to prevent fraud from happening in the first place.
These are just some of the measures that have already started to make a significant reduction in fraud and error in areas such as Morecambe and Lunesdale. These will be further strengthened by the new measures proposed in the Social Security Fraud Bill currently before Parliament.
Mr. Swinney: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security how many people (a) are eligible to claim and (b) claim the Minimum Income Guarantee in each parliamentary constituency in Scotland. 
|Parliamentary constituency||Number of cases|
|Airdrie and Shotts||2.4|
|Argyll and Bute||2.4|
|Banff and Buchan||2.3|
|Caithness Sunderland and Easter Ross||1.6|
|Carrick Cumnock and Doon Valley||2.8|
|Clydebank and Milngavie||2.4|
|Coatbridge and Chryston||3.0|
|Cumbernauld and Kilsyth||1.9|
|Edinburgh East and Musselburgh||2.7|
|Edinburgh North and Leigh||2.1|
|Galloway and Upper Nithsdale||2.4|
|Greenock and Inverclyde||2.6|
|Hamilton North and Bellshill||2.3|
|Inverness East Nairn and Lochaber||2.1|
|Kilmarnock and Loudoun||3.2|
|Motherwell and Wishaw||3.0|
|North East Fife||1.5|
|Orkney and Shetland||1.0|
|Ross Skye and Inverness West||2.4|
|Roxburgh and Berwickshire||1.8|
|Strathkelvin and Bearsden||2.0|
|Tweeddale Ettrick and Lauderdale||1.5|
|West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine||1.3|
(44) MIG Pensioners are defined where the claimant and/or partner are aged 60 or over.
1. Figures are based on a 5 per cent. sample and are therefore subject to a degree of sampling error.
2. Figures are rounded to the nearest hundred and are expressed in thousands.
4. Constituency information represents constituency boundaries as at May 1997. Numbers of people eligible to claim Minimum Income Guarantee (MIG) are not available. It is not possible to produce reliable estimates for different parts of Great Britain.
Income Support Quarterly Statistical Enquiry, August 2000
8 Feb 2001 : Column: 700W
Mr. Mitchell: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security if he will estimate the cost to the Exchequer of increasing the basic state pension to £92 for a single person and £138 for a couple, taking into account (a) savings in regard to (i) the minimum income guarantee and (ii) other benefits payable to pensioners and (b) the consequent increases in receipts of tax revenue. 
|Minimum Income Guarantee savings||1.8|
|Other income related benefit savings||1|
|Total income related benefit savings||0.8|
|Total net cost||5.8|
1. All costs are given in £ billion to the nearest £100 million.
2. Gross costs are estimated by the Government Actuary's Department.
3. Income related benefits savings are estimated using the Policy Simulation Model.
4. The tax effects are estimated by the Inland Revenue.
5. Costs are given excluding widows and bereavement benefits whose rates are linked by law to the rate of basic Retirement Pension. Including them adds £200 million to the net costs.
Mr. Don Foster: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security how many press releases were issued by his Department in the financial years (a) 1996-97, (b) 1997-98, (c) 1998-99 and (d) 1999-2000; how many have been issued in the current financial year; and what his estimate is of the total number for the current financial year. 
|Benefits Agency (BA)||60||42||48||--|
|Contributions Agency (CA)||50||10||3||--|
|Child Support Agency (CSA)||10||4||--||--|
1. The information given for the year 2000 includes all Press Releases issued on behalf of the Department and its agencies.
2. The production of Press Releases runs from January to December. To date we have issued 55 in the year 2001. It is not possible to estimate the number we will issue for the whole year.
3. In April 2000 the BA and CSA Press Offices merged with the DSS team and consequently all Press Releases are now categorised as DSS.