Chancellor Rishi Sunak should allow the National Crime Agency (NCA) to investigate “astronomical levels of fraud” that was allegedly committed during the coronavirus pandemic, according to the Labour party.
The party will use an opposition day debate in the Commons later today to attempt to get Government backing for an investigation after it was revealed the Treasury would write off billions of pounds of Covid loans with money having gone to “fraudsters”.
Simon Clarke, the chief secretary to the Treasury, said yesterday that he did not recognise reports that his department refused to allow the NCA to investigate fraud associated with the coronavirus bounceback loan scheme.
But Labour said investigators must be allowed to look into the alleged fraud and Rishi Sunak must, by the end of March, provide an update on the amount clawed back.
It comes after the dramatic resignation of Lord Agnew in the Lords chamber last week.
Lord Agnew, who had been the minister for efficiency and transformation, quit at the despatch box, saying in his resignation letter: “The failure of government in tackling fraud is, I believe, so egregious and the need for remedy so urgent that, in the end, I felt the only option was to smash some crockery to get people to take notice.”
Shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves said: “The £4.3bn of public funds lost to fraud and written off by the Chancellor shows how little he and his Government respect UK taxpayers.
“His defence all along has been that there was pressure to get help to businesses. That’s no excuse for not even having minimal controls in place. And now the taxpayer is being asked to pay the bill.
“The Chancellor must allow the National Crime Agency to investigate these astronomical levels of fraud, and come back with an update on the amount of taxpayers funds they’ve clawed back from criminals by the end of the March.”