28 January 2000
Social Security Secretary Alistair Darling announced the new unit after a Public Accounts Committee report last week said widespread benefit fraud could be costing taxpayers £1.7bn a year.
'The new National Benefits Intelligence Unit will draw on the expertise of our top fraud investigators, as well as intelligence from other agencies including the police, local authorities, the immigration service and others,' Darling said.
'Valuable intelligence is already provided by thousands of people through the fraud hotline.'
The new unit is part of a package of measures to foster an 'anti-cheat culture', said Darling. It will include press and television advertising.
But unions criticised the inception of the unit as a cosmetic exercise, because no extra staffing or money was being provided.