Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury Pat McFadden speaks after a Treasury minister dramatically quit Boris Johnson’s government
You might not have heard of Lord Agnew – the Government Anti-Fraud Minister who resigned in the House of Lords yesterday.
But the reasons he gave for his resignation matter to you and your family’s budget.
Because it involves £4.3 billion of taxpayers’ money, lost by the government to fraud.
Frittered away – and now in the hands of criminals and gangs.
Asked by Labour about the amount of money lost to fraud in the Government’s Covid schemes, Lord Agnew couldn’t justify that loss any longer.
He no longer defended the lack of checks to prevent fraud to the public purse.
Of course there was pressure to get help to people and businesses quickly.
But it shouldn’t be beyond the wit of government – the stewards of taxpayers’ hard earned cash – to get money where it needs to without losing billions to criminals.
Instead Lord Agnew rounded on the Government’s handling of the affair describing it as “woefully inadequate” and “inexcusable” and characterised by a combination of “arrogance and indolence”.
He blasted the loans given to companies with no record of trading and the duplicate loans given to companies.
This matters because a government guarantee means taxpayers like you will be lumped with the costs.
But it also matters because there is a growing cost of living crisis.
One that is only going to get worse when the Conservatives’ tax hikes hit in April.
We’ve been told these tax rises are needed to pay for health and social care.
Yet the Government’s own Minister said yesterday that tackling this fraud was worth 1p off income tax if the Government could rouse itself to do it.
Coming on top of billions spent on crony contracts, this enormous waste destroys any claim the Conservatives have to careful stewardship of the public finances.
Value for money still matters.
And it matters more when the Chancellor – the Minister for Fraud himself – tells the public you have to pay more taxes to meet the bills.
Bills that Labour has a plan to keep low, with our plan to save households £200 as energy prices soar.
Lord Agnew’s resignation is another reminder that the Chancellor must take responsibility for the level of waste and fraud which has happened on his watch.
And he shouldn’t continue to hide while asking the British people to pay the price.