Witch-hunt warning over benefit fraud

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Indy Politics
The growing drive against benefit fraud must not turn into a witch-hunt which deprives innocent claimants of payments to which they are entitled, the Liberal Democrats warned yesterday.

With the Commons Social Security Committee poised to demand a new anti- fraud drive tomorrow, and with Peter Lilley, Secretary of State for Social Security, to announce details of the computerised anti-fraud benefit card on the same day, Earl Russell, the Liberal Democrat social security spokesman, yesterday warned there was a danger of "hype" over the extent of benefit fraud.

The committee is expected to claim that housing benefit fraud alone could total more than pounds 2bn. Members will argue that Mr Lilley has not taken the issue seriously enough. Frank Field, the committee's Labour chairman, has called for an "SAS-style" task force to tackle losses.

Lord Russell, however, said that measures against fraud must be targeted at criminals, rather than sweeping up the innocent and criminal together. "The fight against fraud must not be used to prejudice the rights of the overwhelming majority of applicants for benefit, who are genuine. It must not be allowed to degenerate into a witch-hunt," he said.