Previous Section Index Home Page

15 May 2008 : Column 1648

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.— [Mr. Khan.]

The Solicitor-General: I am sure that the public are utterly baffled, but we are all pleased that we can go on a little bit longer—but let me reassure those people that it will only be a little bit longer.

We are investing up front—this is the important point I want to put to the hon. Gentleman to help him with his concerns—to build up the specialist skills we need to make action against fraud a mainstream part of British policing. We are expanding the highly successful role—he agrees that it has been successful—played by the City of London police as the lead force in the south-east. It has £8 million of new ring-fenced funding, which is separate from the £28 million in the spending review, to which I have already referred, and it will become the national lead force as well. Apart from that money to boost its role in the south-east, it will have additional moneys of £28 million from the comprehensive spending review to enable it to boost investigations around the country and, as a centre of excellence, to build investigative expertise around the country. Two quite separate pots of money are going to that excellent force, which works so well and with such commitment—and, indeed, with such excitement at the chase.

We will go further, because we will need to look at how the framework of performance management for the police can be adapted to strengthen incentives to chase such crime and recognition for delivering strong action against fraud. It is very important that fraud is dealt with and that people locally gain confidence that action will be taken.

I have mentioned in passing the Crown Prosecution Service, which is already funded to do fraud prosecutions. It has a fraud division and it is accumulating expertise from people who are doing the work in depth. Those involved did 117 cases last year—they are very new—and had an 80 per cent. conviction rate, while there are currently 250 active cases. The Serious Fraud Office had 67 cases last year with a conviction rate of 68 per cent. The Fraud Act 2006 is helping to ensure that those investigations are brought to fruitful prosecutions.

We are now determined and very committed to delivering an integrated response to fraud such as the plague of boiler room fraud that preys on the vulnerable, but also to fraud across the board. We must ensure that knowledge of fraud is managed effectively so that we can improve nationally in how we tackle it. We need activity across the system that is properly co-ordinated for maximum impact, and law makers and law enforcers must work together to change the balance of risk and reward against the fraudster. We must also earn public confidence by delivering justice and redress, not least so that more people will be relieved from the burdens that the hon. Gentleman spoke about and so that more people will report, enabling us to pre-empt more of this invidious crime. By focusing very hard on immediate key threats such as boiler room fraud, but also by addressing the longer-term challenges for the future, we will make this country—this is our mission and we intend to do it—the hardest target in the world for fraudsters.

Question put and agreed to.

Adjourned accordingly at three minutes past Six o’clock.

    Index Home Page