Letter: Snoop lines: not as effective as they say

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Your report "A nation of snoopers" (29 December) claims that "among the most successful snoopers' phonelines is the one for benefit fraud, launched in the summer by Peter Lilley, Secretary of State for Social Security". Recently reported figures from the Department of Social Security (DSS) confirm that around 98 per cent of the "400,000" callers were unable to provide any evidence of fraud, and anyway, both the DSS and Benefits Agency barely have the resources to follow up the remainder.

Alarmingly, our Government has neither conducted research nor provided evidence to back its assertion that "pounds 3bn" in welfare is claimed "illegally" each year and few "opposition" politicians or "civil liberties" figureheads seem willing or able to question the accuracy, let alone motivation, of spurious claims such as this.

Snooper lines indicate a brutally decadent government desperate to deflect criticism from its own deceits. Look at the example of the recent job seekers' allowance, which robs people of their national insurance contributions, spreads and tightens the thumbscrews of means-testing and which will lay off tens of thousands of dole workers. It gives rise to the need for covert "public co-operation" - to force remaining staff into carrying out the unpleasant task of policing the welfare system, instead of benefiting those hardest hit by years of social and economic, but unfortunately not political, failure by this Government.

Russell Cavanagh

Edinburgh

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