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18 Jan 2006 : Column 1357W—continued

Pre-Budget Statement

Mr. Laws: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he spoke to journalists on 5 December 2005 before delivering his pre-Budget statement in the House. [36162]

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.

Red Diesel

Mr. Lancaster: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will be seeking to renew the derogation of the Red Diesel Rules. [42807]

John Healey: I refer the hon. Member to my reply to the hon. Member for Stroud on 20 December 2005, Official Report, column 2465W.

Tax Credits/Fraud

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. [35696]

Dawn Primarolo: The Home Secretary is today making a statement on the measures the Government are taking to address identity fraud.

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 2003–04 and that of these 6,800 have been used in an attempt to defraud the
 
18 Jan 2006 : Column 1358W
 
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 2004–05. [21622]


 
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Dawn Primarolo: Estimates of numbers and values of overpayments or underpayments for 2004–05 awards at 5 April 2005 will be published in spring 2006, after all the awards are finalised.

HM Revenue and Customs wrote off around £85,000 for families in Northern Ireland following its disputed overpayments procedures during 2004–05.

Unemployment (London)

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. [42946]

John Healey: The information requested falls within the responsibility of the National Statistician who has been asked to reply.

Letter from Karen Dunnell, dated 18 January 2006:


Table 1: Number of people aged 16 and over resident in each London borough who have been unemployed for two years or more; 12 months ending March 2005.

London boroughNumber
Barking and Dagenham800
Barnet1,100
Bexley(10)
Brent1,700
Bromley(10)
Camden(10)
City of London(10)
Croydon1,100
Ealing1,000
Enfield1,300
Greenwich700
Hackney800
Hammersmith and Fulham800
Haringey1,200
Harrow(10)
Havering(10)
Hillingdon(10)
Hounslow(10)
Islington800
Kensington and Chelsea(10)
Kingston-upon-Thames(10)
Lambeth3,100
Lewisham1,200
Merton(10)
Newham1,000
Redbridge(10)
Richmond-upon-Thames700
Southwark2,200
Sutton(10)
Tower Hamlets900
Waltham Forest1,500
Wandsworth1,200
Westminster, City of1,100
London27,200


(10) Estimate not available, sample size less than three could be disclosive.
Source:
Annual Population Survey.





 
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Table 2: Number of claimants of jobseeker's allowance, resident in each London borough, claiming for more than two years; November 2005.

London boroughNumber(11)
Barking and Dagenham155
Barnet270
Bexley135
Brent710
Bromley225
Camden415
City of London5
Croydon210
Ealing175
Enfield315
Greenwich220
Hackney305
Hammersmith and Fulham170
Haringey740
Harrow110
Havering85
Hillingdon135
Hounslow65
Islington345
Kensington and Chelsea165
Kingston-upon-Thames60
Lambeth485
Lewisham300
Merton150
Newham370
Redbridge125
Richmond-upon-Thames80
Southwark1,160
Sutton100
Tower Hamlets805
Waltham Forest405
Wandsworth260
Westminster, City of210
London9,480


(11) Duration data rounded to nearest five.
Source:
Jobcentre Plus Administrative system





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