Bizarre benefits fraud excuses revealed

By DeusExMacintosh

Celebrity squares are:

Top left: Jacquie Smith MP (Lab) – former Home Secretary who claimed her husband’s pay-per-view porn on expenses. [no action]
Top right: David Laws MP (LibDem) – almost coalition Home Secretary until he admitted claiming for rent paid to his undeclared male partner. [suspended from Parliament for a week, under police investigation]
Middle left: Lord Taylor of Warwick (Con) – despite being a practising barrister, the Conservatives’ first black peer cheated his expenses “in lieu of a salary” as Lords aren’t paid. [found guilty, awaiting sentencing]
Middle right: Lord Hanningfield (Con) – peer & council boss claimed for living & travel expenses which either didn’t exist or were already being paid to him as a councillor. “It is an allowance scheme, not a reimbursement scheme. Quite honestly, people see it as a way of recouping what we spend.” [found guilty, awaiting sentencing]
Bottom left: Jim Devine MP (Lab) – inherited Robin Cook’s safe Labour seat and then forged receipts for non-existent office expenses. [plead guilty, gaoled 16 months]
Bottom middle: Elliot Morley MP (Lab) – “forgot” he had paid off a mortgage on which he continued to claim expenses. Together with Labour MPs David Chaytor and Jim Devine went on to claim Legal Aid in order to argue that expenses were a matter of parliamentary privilege beyond the authority of the police or courts [plead guilty and gaoled 16 months for False Accounting]
Bottom right: David Chaytor MP (Lab) – claimed for phantom mortgage interest payments on a property he had owned outright for a year and forged tenancy documents in order to claim rent paid to his daughter under a false name. [plead guilty, gaoled for 18 months]

Ministers have tried to highlight the impact of benefit fraud by publishing some of the more unusual excuses used by people found guilty of cheating. Reasons include carrying ladders as therapy rather than for cleaning windows, and claiming an identical twin had been doing work rather than them.

About £1.6bn is lost through benefit and tax credit fraud each year. Some disability groups have warned the government against exaggerating the scale of the problem to justify cuts.

One excuse revealed by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) was: “I wasn’t aware my wife was working because her hours of work coincided with the times I spent in the garden shed.”

Another false claimant said: “We don’t live together, he just comes each morning to fill up his flask.”

In a case highlighted by the DWP, a man from Yorkshire claimed nearly £17,500 to look after his sick father – but had to admit to lying when his father revealed he had not seen his son for years.

In another instance, a man claimed more than £55,000 in disability benefits while he was working on a dairy farm.

Welfare Reform Minister Lord Freud said benefit fraud was serious, yet investigators were “routinely dealing with bare-faced cheek and ridiculous excuses for stealing money from the taxpayer”.

BBC News

Now play spot the difference.

6 Comments

  1. kvd
    Posted May 31, 2011 at 4:59 am | Permalink

    Sooner or later DEM, you’re gonna get a visit from the Polite Police. (And what actually is ‘False Accounting’?)

  2. Patrick
    Posted May 31, 2011 at 7:39 am | Permalink

    In fairness, Britain should be really proud of itself that so many of them are in or bound to be in gaol.

    Not likely in any non-Anglo countries! (nor is the actual transgression so likely in a Nordic country, hmm).

    Maybe being so close to Southern Europe has corrupted British pollies?

  3. Posted May 31, 2011 at 12:01 pm | Permalink

    ‘False Accounting” is a charge under the Theft Act as it happens, in the case of at least two of those above involving the falsification of receipts. That’s forgery to amateurs like us… (and I’m always VERY polite, ish anyhow – I like to imagine there is a minor staffer somewhere in Conservative central office who whimpers every time I put up a funnie).

  4. derrida derider
    Posted May 31, 2011 at 1:37 pm | Permalink

    I always find these stories, created for tabloid and shock jock consumption, revolting. Ministers actively solicit the Deparment to find them and “sex them up”. The department, like a good whore, duly provides the service.

    OTOH, it all puts me in mind of a colourful welfare minister (colourful even by Oz standards) I once worked for. On my mildly querying one such setup, he said “Listen, in this job you can’t forget that a good slab of the voters are deadshits. You’ve got to keep doing things for the deadshit vote if you want space to do the right thing occasionally.”

  5. Posted May 31, 2011 at 6:24 pm | Permalink

    One crumb of comfort from this whole exercise is the similarity in the sentencing tariffs for both the cheating MPs and cheating benefits recipients (the sums involved and the excuses offered are similar). There is always a risk that those in power will be given a free pass.

    The rest of Britain may be going down the pan, but at least we still have the rule of law.

  6. John
    Posted June 7, 2011 at 11:04 pm | Permalink

    It will be interesting to see if the £1.6bn reduces under the Tory plans for Universal Credit and the setting up of one Investigation Service to investigate allegations of fraud. Strangely enough they expect to increase the number of investigators within the service with their own staff, that could mean that 2,000 Local Authority investigators will be ‘signing on’, when they could be put to good use. Wheres the logic in that?

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