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John Healey: On 5 December 2005, before his pre-Budget report statement, the Chancellor visited a shared equity housing scheme in London with the Prime Minister, attended Cabinet and also attended a memorial service for Robin Cook, the former Foreign Secretary and Leader of the House of Commons. There was no briefing to journalists by the Chancellor.
Mr. Laws: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, how many fraudulent tax credit claims have been identified since April 2003; what the combined value is of fraudulent claims identified; and if he will make a statement. 
But I want to inform the House of the detailed action HMRC is taking to identify and root out identity fraud and to work with banks to address a problem HMRC investigations have identified and about which they are in discussion with banks-that is, the use of stolen identities to set up bank accounts under false pretences.
As a result of investigations by HMRC and DWP, DWP was alerted to the false use of the names of a number of DWP staff in setting up bank accounts under false pretences and then making fraudulent claims. On 2 December 2005 DWP and HMRC announced that a criminal investigation had been launched. At the same time, HMRC suspended the internet service with immediate effect.
Over the past six weeks DWP investigators and HMRC compliance officers have undertaken detailed inquiries. While one initial estimate was that up to 13,000 staff might have been affected by the identity theft, it is now established that some 8,800 staff identities may have been stolen in 200304 and that of these 6,800 have been used in an attempt to defraud the
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tax credits system in autumn 2005. Of the 6,800 fraudulent claims, around 4,100 were fully intercepted by HMRC before any payment, so that no payment was made. Of the remaining 2,700 claims where tax credit payments were made into multiple bank accounts using the stolen identities payments were suspended immediately they were discovered, and all payments were suspended by 16 December 2005. Swift action addressed the risk of higher losses, limiting the loss from this fraud to an estimated £2.7 million.
In a statement issued alongside National Statistics published on 23 December 2005, HMRC stated that a number of criminal investigations were under way. As a result of these investigations, which are ongoing, HMRC have uncovered evidence that banks have been the victims of multiple bank accounts opened under false pretences-using the names of individuals whose identities were stolen. With HMRC informing the banks of this fraud, the banks concerned will be addressing the issues we are raising with them.
As previously announced on 23 December 2005 we are subjecting around 30,000 claims to detailed further investigation, although not all of these are likely to be fraudulent. This includes the use of staff information stolen from Network Rail and which then led to bank accounts created for Network Rail employees under false pretences. Our detailed investigations have so far resulted in at least 16,000 claims being stopped, with information being referred to the National Criminal. Intelligence Service, which will form part of the Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) on 1 April 2006. I will keep the House informed in a manner consistent with the ongoing criminal investigation.
New measures already announced in the pre-Budget report will result in a doubling of the number of pre-payment checks carried out on new claims. In addition, I have offered the banking sector and other financial institutions the help and expertise of HMRC in detecting such identity fraud, and ensuring that sufficient checks are in place to prevent fraudsters from opening bank accounts using stolen identities. We will continue to work with them to help tackle the problem. HMRC will also, seek to contact companies or individuals where it finds evidence that they might have been targeted by such fraudsters and work with them to assist in the investigation.
Dr. McCrea: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what his estimate is of the value of tax credit overpayments (a) made and (b) written off by Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs to people in Northern Ireland in 200405. 
Lynne Featherstone: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many people in each London borough had been unemployed for two years or more in the last period for which figures are available; and if he will make a statement. 
Table 1 shows the numbers of people aged 16 and over who have been unemployed for two years or more, who were resident in the London Boroughs for the 12 month period ending in March 2005. These estimates, as with any from sample surveys, are subject to a margin of uncertainty.
ONS also compiles statistics for local areas of people claiming Jobseeker's Allowance (ISA). Table 2 shows the numbers of JSA claimants, resident in the London Boroughs who have been claiming for more than two years in November 2005.
|Barking and Dagenham||800|
|City of London||(10)|
|Hammersmith and Fulham||800|
|Kensington and Chelsea||(10)|
|Westminster, City of||1,100|
|Barking and Dagenham||155|
|City of London||5|
|Hammersmith and Fulham||170|
|Kensington and Chelsea||165|
|Westminster, City of||210|
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