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Social Security Fraud Bill [H.L.]
 
 

 
 
A

B I L L

TO

Make provision, for the purposes of the law relating to social security, about the obtaining and disclosure of information; and to make provision for restricting the payment of social security benefits and war pensions in the case of persons convicted of offences relating to such benefits or pensions and about the institution of proceedings for such offences; and for connected purposes.

BE IT ENACTED by the Queen's most Excellent Majesty, by and with the advice and consent of the Lords Spiritual and Temporal, and Commons, in this present Parliament assembled, and by the authority of the same, as follows:-
 

 
Obtaining and sharing information
Additional powers to obtain information.     1. - (1) The Administration Act shall be amended as follows.
 
      (2) In subsection (1)(a) of section 109B (power to require information), after "subsection (2)" there shall be inserted "or (2A)"; and after subsection (2) (persons from whom information may be obtained) there shall be inserted-
 
 
    "(2A) The persons who fall within this subsection are-
 
 
    (a) any bank;
 
    (b) any person carrying on a business the whole or a significant part of which consists in the provision of credit, (whether secured or unsecured) to members of the public;
 
    (c) any insurance company (within the meaning of the Insurance Companies Act 1982);
 
    (d) any credit reference agency (within the meaning given by section 145(8) of the Consumer Credit Act 1974);
 
    (e) any body the principal activity of which is to facilitate the exchange of information for the purpose of preventing or detecting fraud;
 
    (f) any person carrying on a business the whole or a significant part of which consists in the provision to members of the public of a service for transferring money from place to place;
 
    (g) any water undertaker or sewerage undertaker, any water and sewerage authority constituted under section 62 of the Local Government etc. (Scotland) Act 1994 or any authority which is a collecting authority for the purposes of section 79 of that Act;
 
    (h) any person who (within the meaning the Gas Act 1986) supplies gas conveyed through pipes;
 
    (i) any person who (within the meaning of the Electricity Act 1989) supplies electricity conveyed by distribution systems;
 
    (j) any person who provides a telecommunications service (within the meaning of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000);
 
    (k) any person conducting any educational establishment or institution;
 
    (l) any body the principal activity of which is to provide services in connection with admissions to educational establishments or institutions;
 
    (m) the Student Loans Company;
 
    (n) any servant or agent of any person mentioned in any of the preceding paragraphs.
      (2B) Subject to subsection (2D) below, the powers conferred by this section on an authorised officer to require information from any person by virtue of his falling within subsection (2A) above shall not be exercisable for obtaining any information except in so far as-
 
 
    (a) the information is information relating to a particular person; and
 
    (b) it appears to the authorised officer that it is legitimate to make that person the subject of an inquiry.
      (2C) For the purposes of subsection (2B) above it is legitimate to make a person the subject of an inquiry if there are reasonable grounds for believing that he is or may be-
 
 
    (a) a person who has contravened, is contravening or is likely to contravene provisions of the relevant social security legislation;
 
    (b) a person who has committed, is committing or is likely to commit a benefit offence;
 
    (c) a person belonging to any description of persons who are more likely than others to fall within paragraph (a) or (b) above; or
 
    (d) a person who (within the meaning of Part VII of the Contributions and Benefits Act) is a member of the family of a person falling within paragraph (a), (b) or (c) above.
      (2D) Nothing in subsection (2B) above shall prevent an authorised officer who is an official of a Government department and whose authorisation states that his authorisation applies for the purposes of this subsection from exercising the powers conferred by this section for obtaining from-
 
 
    (a) a water undertaker or any water and sewerage authority constituted under section 62 of the Local Government etc. (Scotland) Act 1994,
 
    (b) any person who (within the meaning the Gas Act 1986) supplies gas conveyed through pipes,
 
    (c) any person who (within the meaning of the Electricity Act 1989) supplies electricity conveyed by distribution systems, or
 
    (d) any servant or agent of a person mentioned in any of the preceding paragraphs,
       any information which relates exclusively to whether and in what quantities water, gas or electricity are being or have been supplied to residential premises specified or described in the notice by which the information is required.
 
      (2E) The powers conferred by this section shall not be exercisable for obtaining from any person providing a telecommunications service (within the meaning of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000) anything which (within the meaning of section 21 of that Act) is traffic data in relation to a communication."
 
      (3) After subsection (5) of that section there shall be inserted-
 
 
    "(6) Provision may be made by order-
 
 
    (a) adding any person to the list of persons falling within subsection (2A) above;
 
    (b) removing any person from the list of persons falling within that subsection;
 
    (c) modifying that subsection for the purpose of taking account of any change to the name of any person for the time being falling within that subsection.
      (7) In this section-
 
 
    "bank" means-
 
      (a) any institution for the time being authorised under a provision of the Banking Act 1987;
 
      (b) any person for the time being specified in any of paragraphs 2 to 10 of Schedule 2 to that Act (exempted persons);
 
      (c) any person for the time being entitled by virtue of the Banking Co-ordination (Second Council Directive) Regulations 1992 to accept deposits (within the meaning of that Act) in the United Kingdom;
 
    "credit" includes a cash loan or any form of financial accommodation, including the cashing of a cheque; and
 
    "residential premises", in relation to a supply of water, gas or electricity, means any premises which-
 
      (a) at the time of the supply were premises occupied wholly or partly for residential purposes, or
 
      (b) are premises to which that supply was provided as if they were so occupied."
      (4) In section 110A(8) (modifications for the application of sections 109B and 109C in the case of persons authorised by authorities administering housing benefit or council tax benefit), after paragraph (b) there shall be inserted"; and
 
 
    (c) with the omission of section 109B(2D)."
      (5) In section 111(1)(a) of that Act (offence of obstruction), for "inspector" there shall be substituted "authorised officer".
 
      (6) In section 121DA(5) (interpretation of Part VI), for the definition of "benefit offence" there shall be substituted-
 
 
    ""benefit offence" means-
 
      (a) any criminal offence in connection with a claim for a relevant social security benefit;
 
      (b) any criminal offence in connection with the receipt or payment of any amount by way of such a benefit;
 
      (c) any criminal offence committed for the purpose of facilitating the commission (whether or not by the same person) of a benefit offence;
 
      (d) any attempt or conspiracy to commit a benefit offence;".
      (7) In section 121DA(7) (definitions for the purposes of section 121DA), after "section" there shall be inserted-
 
 
    ""relevant social security benefit" means a benefit under any provision of the relevant social security legislation; and".
      (8) In section 190(1) (instruments subject to affirmative Parliamentary procedure), after paragraph (a) there shall be inserted-
 
 
    "(aza) any order containing provision adding any person to the list of persons falling within section 109B(2A) above;".
Electronic access to information.     2. - (1) After section 109B of the Administration Act there shall be inserted-
 
 
"Power of Secretary of State to require electronic access to information.     109BA. - (1) Subject to subsection (2) below, where it appears to the Secretary of State-
 
    (a) that a person falling within section 109B(2A) keeps any electronic records,
 
    (b) that the records contain or are likely, from time to time, to contain information about any matter that is relevant for any one or more of the purposes mentioned in section 109A(2) above, and
 
    (c) that facilities exist under which electronic access to those records is being provided, or is capable of being provided, by that person to other persons,
       the Secretary of State may require that person to enter into arrangements under which authorised officers are allowed such access to those records.
 
      (2) An authorised officer-
 
 
    (a) shall be entitled to obtain information in accordance with arrangements entered into under subsection (1) above only if his authorisation states that his authorisation applies for the purposes of that subsection; and
 
    (b) shall not seek to obtain any information in accordance with any such arrangements other than information which relates to a particular person and could be the subject of a requirement under section 109B above.
      (3) The matters that may be included in the arrangements that a person is required to enter into under subsection (1) above may include-
 
 
    (a) requirements as to the electronic access to records that is to be made available to authorised officers;
 
    (b) requirements as to the keeping of records of the use that is made of the arrangements;
 
    (c) requirements restricting the disclosure of information about the use that is made of the arrangements; and
 
    (d) such other incidental requirements as the Secretary of State considers appropriate in connection with allowing access to records to authorised officers.
      (4) An authorised officer who is allowed access in accordance with any arrangements entered into under subsection (1) above shall be entitled to make copies of, and to take extracts from, any records containing information which he is entitled to require under section 109B."
 
      (2) After section 110A of that Act there shall be inserted-
 
 
"Power of local authority to require electronic access to information.     110AA. - (1) Subject to subsection (2) below, where it appears to an authority administering housing benefit or council tax benefit-
 
    (a) that a person falling within section 109B(2A) keeps any electronic records,
 
    (b) that the records contain or are likely, from time to time, to contain information about any matter that is relevant for any one or more of the purposes mentioned in section 110A(2) above, and
 
    (c) that facilities exist under which electronic access to those records is being provided, or is capable of being provided, by that person to other persons,
       that authority may require that person to enter into arrangements under which authorised officers are allowed such access to those records.
 
      (2) An authorised officer-
 
 
    (a) shall be entitled to obtain information in accordance with arrangements entered into under subsection (1) above only if his authorisation states that his authorisation applies for the purposes of that subsection; and
 
    (b) shall not seek to obtain any information in accordance with any such arrangements other than information which-
 
      (i) relates to a particular person; and
 
      (ii) could be the subject of any such requirement under section 109B above as may be imposed in exercise of the powers conferred by section 110A(8) above.
      (3) The matters that may be included in the arrangements that a person is required to enter into under subsection (1) above may include-
 
 
    (a) requirements as to the electronic access to records that is to be made available to authorised officers;
 
    (b) requirements as to the keeping of records of the use that is made of the arrangements;
 
    (c) requirements restricting the disclosure of information about the use that is made of the arrangements; and
 
    (d) such other incidental requirements as the authority in question considers appropriate in connection with allowing access to records to authorised officers.
      (4) An authorised officer who is allowed access in accordance with any arrangements entered into under subsection (1) above shall be entitled to make copies of, and to take extracts from, any records containing information which he is entitled to make the subject of a requirement such as is mentioned in subsection (2)(b) above.
 
      (5) An authority administering housing benefit or council tax benefit shall not-
 
 
    (a) require any person to enter into arrangements for allowing authorised officers to have electronic access to any records; or
 
    (b) otherwise than in pursuance of a requirement under this section, enter into any arrangements with a person specified in section 109B(2A) above for allowing anyone acting on behalf of the authority for purposes connected with any benefit to have electronic access to any private information contained in any records,
       except with the consent of the Secretary of State and subject to any conditions imposed by the Secretary of State by the provisions of the consent.
 
      (6) A consent for the purposes of subsection (5) may be given in relation to a particular case, or in relation to any case that falls within a particular description of cases.
 
      (7) In this section "private information", in relation to an authority administering housing benefit or council tax benefit, means any information held by a person who is not entitled to disclose it to that authority except in compliance with a requirement imposed by the authority in exercise of their statutory powers."
 
      (3) In section 111 of that Act (offences)-
 
 
    (a) in subsection (1)(a), for "or" at the end there shall be substituted-
 
    "(ab) refuses or neglects to comply with any requirement under section 109BA or 110AA with the requirements of any arrangements entered into in accordance with subsection (1) of that section, or";
       and
 
 
    (b) in subsection (2), for "subsection (1)(b)" there shall be substituted "subsection (1)(ab) or (b)".
Arrangements for payments in respect of information.     3. - (1) It shall be the duty of the Secretary of State to ensure that such arrangements (if any) are in force as he thinks appropriate for requiring or authorising, in such cases as he thinks fit, the making of such payments as he considers appropriate in respect of compliance with relevant obligations by any of the following-
 
 
    (a) a credit reference agency (within the meaning given by section 145(8) of the Consumer Credit Act 1974) or any servant or agent of such any agency;
 
    (b) a person providing a telecommunications service (within the meaning of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000) or any servant or agent of such a person;
 
    (c) a water undertaker or a water and sewerage authority constituted under section 62 of the Local Government etc. (Scotland) Act 1994, or any servant or agent of such an undertaker or authority,
 
    (d) any person who (within the meaning the Gas Act 1986) supplies gas conveyed through pipes, or any servant or agent of such a person;
 
    (e) any person who (within the meaning of the Electricity Act 1989) supplies electricity conveyed by distribution systems, or any servant or agent of such a person;
 
    (f) any person added to the list of persons falling within subsection (2A) of section 109B above by an order under subsection (6) of that section, or any person's servant or agent who falls within that subsection by virtue of such an order.
      (2) In subsection (1) "relevant obligation"-
 
 
    (a) in relation to a person falling within paragraph (a), (b) or (f) of that subsection, means-
 
      (i) an obligation to provide information in pursuance of a requirement imposed on that person under section 109B of the Administration Act by virtue only of his falling within subsection (2A) of that section; or
 
      (ii) any obligation to comply, for the purpose of enabling an authorised officer to obtain information which might otherwise be obtained by the imposition of such a requirement, with any requirements imposed on that person under section 109BA or 110AA of that Act;
 
    and
 
    (b) in relation to a person falling within any of paragraphs (c) to (e) of that subsection, means any obligation to provide information in pursuance of a requirement imposed by such an exercise of the powers conferred by section 109B of that Act as is mentioned in subsection (2D) of that section.
      (3) For the purpose of complying with his duty under this section, the Secretary of State may make arrangements for payments to be made out of money provided by Parliament.
 
      (4) It shall be the duty of an authority administering housing benefit or council tax benefit to comply with such general or specific directions as to the making of payments as may be given by the Secretary of State in accordance with any arrangements for the time being in force for the purposes of subsection (1).
 
Exchange of information with overseas authorities.     4. - (1) In Part XIV of the Administration Act (social security systems outside Great Britain), after section 179 there shall be inserted the following section-
 
 
"Exchange of information with overseas authorities.     179A. - (1) This section applies where it appears to the Secretary of State-
 
    (a) that there are arrangements in force for the exchange of relevant information between him and any authorities in a country outside the United Kingdom ("the overseas country"); and
 
    (b) that the arrangements and the law in force in the overseas country are such as to ensure that there are adequate safeguards in place against any improper use of information disclosed by the Secretary of State under this section.
      (2) For the purpose of facilitating the carrying out by authorities in the overseas country of any function relating to anything corresponding to, or in the nature of, a social security benefit, the Secretary of State may make any such disclosure of relevant information to authorities in the overseas country as he considers necessary to give effect to the arrangements.
 
      (3) It shall be the duty of the Secretary of State to take all such steps as may be reasonable for securing that relevant information disclosed to him in accordance with the arrangements is not used for any purpose for which its use is not expressly or impliedly authorised by or under the arrangements.
 
      (4) This section does not apply where provision is in force under section 179 above for giving effect to the arrangements in question.
 
      (5) The purposes for which information may be required to be disclosed to the Secretary of State under section 122D above or section 116D of the Northern Ireland Administration Act (information required from authorities administering housing benefit or council tax benefit) shall be deemed to include the further disclosure of that information in accordance with this section.
 
      (6) In this section "relevant information" means any information held by the Secretary of State or any authorities in a country outside the United Kingdom for the purposes of any functions relating to, or to anything corresponding to or in the nature of, a social security benefit."
 
      (2) In Part XIII of the Social Security Administration (Northern Ireland) Act 1992 (social security systems outside Northern Ireland), after section 155 there shall be inserted the following section-
 
 
"Exchange of information with overseas authorities.     155A. - (1) This section applies where it appears to the Department-
 
    (a) that there are arrangements in force for the exchange of relevant information between the Department and any authorities in a country outside the United Kingdom ("the overseas country"); and
 
    (b) that the arrangements and the law in force in the overseas country are such as to ensure that there are adequate safeguards in place against any improper use of information disclosed by the Department under this section.
      (2) For the purpose of facilitating the carrying out by authorities in the overseas country of any function relating to anything corresponding to, or in the nature of, a social security benefit, the Department may make any such disclosure of relevant information to authorities in the overseas country as the Department considers necessary to give effect to the arrangements.
 
      (3) It shall be the duty of the Department to take all such steps as may be reasonable for securing that relevant information disclosed to it in accordance with the arrangements is not used for any purpose for which its use is not expressly or impliedly authorised by or under the arrangements.
 
      (4) This section does not apply where provision is in force under section 155 above for giving effect to the arrangements in question.
 
      (5) The purposes for which information may be required to be disclosed to the Department under section 116D above or section 122D of the Great Britain Administration Act (information required from authorities administering housing benefit or council tax benefit) shall be deemed to include the further disclosure of that information in accordance with this section.
 
      (6) In this section "relevant information" means any information held by the Department or any authorities in a country outside the United Kingdom for the purposes of any functions relating to, or to anything corresponding to or in the nature of, a social security benefit."
 
Exchange of information by authorities administering benefit.     5. In each of sections 122D(3) and 122E(4) of the Administration Act (power of the Secretary of State and Northern Ireland Department to require the supply of information by authorities administering housing or council tax benefit, and persons acting on their behalf), for "prescribed" there shall be substituted "specified in directions given by the Secretary of State or, as the case may be, the Northern Ireland Department".
 
 
Loss of benefit provisions
Loss of benefit for commission of benefit offences.     6. - (1) If-
 
 
    (a) a person ("the offender") is convicted of one or more benefit offences in each of two separate sets of proceedings,
 
    (b) the benefit offence, or one of the benefit offences, of which he is convicted in the later proceedings is one committed within the period of three years after the date, or any of the dates, on which he was convicted of a benefit offence in the earlier proceedings,
 
    (c) the later set of proceedings has not been taken into account for the purposes of any previous application of this section or section 7 or 8 in relation to the offender or any person who was then a member of his family,
 
    (d) the earlier set of proceedings has not been taken into account as the earlier set of proceedings for the purposes of any previous application of this section or either of those sections in relation to the offender or any person who was then a member of his family, and
 
    (e) the offender is a person with respect to whom the conditions for an entitlement to a sanctionable benefit are or become satisfied at any time within the disqualification period,
       then, even though those conditions are satisfied, the following restrictions shall apply in relation to the payment of that benefit in the offender's case.
 
      (2) Subject to subsections (3) to (5), the sanctionable benefit shall not be payable in the offender's case for any period comprised in the disqualification period.
 
      (3) Where the sanctionable benefit is income support, the benefit shall be payable in the offender's case for any period comprised in the disqualification period as if the applicable amount used for the determination under section 124(4) of the Social Security Contributions and Benefits Act 1992 of the amount of the offender's entitlement for that period were reduced in such manner as may be prescribed.
 
      (4) The Secretary of State may by regulations provide that, where the sanctionable benefit is jobseeker's allowance, any income-based jobseeker's allowance shall be payable, during the whole or a part of any period comprised in the disqualification period, as if one or more of the following applied-
 
 
    (a) the rate of the allowance were such reduced rate as may be prescribed;
 
    (b) the allowance were payable only if there is compliance by the offender with such obligations with respect to the provision of information as may be imposed by the regulations;
 
    (c) the allowance were payable only if the circumstances are otherwise such as may be prescribed.
      (5) The Secretary of State may by regulations provide that, where the sanctionable benefit is housing benefit or council tax benefit, the benefit shall be payable, during the whole or a part of any period comprised in the disqualification period, as if one or both of the following applied-
 
 
    (a) the rate of the benefit were reduced in such manner as may be prescribed;
 
    (b) the benefit were payable only if the circumstances are such as may be prescribed.
      (6) For the purposes of this section the disqualification period, in relation to the conviction of a person of one or more benefit offences in each of two separate sets of proceedings, means the period of thirteen weeks beginning with such date, falling after the date of the conviction in the later set of proceedings, as may be determined by or in accordance with regulations made by the Secretary of State.
 
      (7) Where-
 
 
    (a) the conviction of any person of any offence is taken into account for the purposes of the application of this section in relation to that person, and
 
    (b) that conviction is subsequently quashed,
       all such payments and other adjustments shall be made as would be necessary if no restriction had been imposed by or under this section that could not have been imposed if the conviction had not taken place.
 
      (8) In this section-
 
 
    "benefit offence" means-
 
      (a) any post-commencement offence in connection with a claim for a disqualifying benefit;
 
      (b) any post-commencement offence in connection with the receipt or payment of any amount by way of such a benefit;
 
      (c) any post-commencement offence committed for the purpose of facilitating the commission (whether or not by the same person) of a benefit offence;
 
      (d) any post-commencement offence consisting in an attempt or conspiracy to commit a benefit offence;
 
    "disqualifying benefit" means (subject to any regulations under section 9(1))-
 
      (a) any benefit under the Jobseekers Act 1995 or the Jobseekers (Northern Ireland) Order 1995;
 
      (b) any benefit under the Social Security Contributions and Benefits Act 1992 or the Social Security Contributions and Benefits (Northern Ireland) Act 1992 other than-
 
        (i) maternity allowance;
 
        (ii) working families' tax credit;
 
        (iii) disabled person's tax credit; and
 
        (iv) statutory sick pay and statutory maternity pay; and
 
      (c) any war pension;
 
    "sanctionable benefit" means (subject to subsection (11) and to any regulations under section 9(1)) any disqualifying benefit other than-
 
      (a) joint-claim jobseeker's allowance;
 
      (b) any retirement pension;
 
      (c) graduated retirement benefit;
 
      (d) disability living allowance;
 
      (e) attendance allowance;
 
      (f) child benefit;
 
      (g) guardian's allowance;
 
      (h) a payment out of the social fund in accordance with Part VIII of the Social Security Contributions and Benefits Act 1992;
 
      (i) a payment under Part X of that Act (Christmas bonuses).
      (9) For the purposes of this section-
 
 
    (a) the date of a person's conviction in any proceedings of a benefit offence shall be taken to be the date on which he was found guilty of that offence in those proceedings (whenever he was sentenced); and
 
    (b) references to a conviction include references to a conviction in relation to which the court makes an order for a conditional discharge and to a conviction in Northern Ireland.
      (10) In this section references to any previous application of this section or section 7 or 8-
 
 
    (a) include references to any previous application of a provision having an effect in Northern Ireland corresponding to provision made by this section, or either of those sections; but
 
    (b) do not include references to any previous application of this section, or of either of those sections, the effect of which was to impose a restriction for a period comprised in the same disqualification period.
      (11) In its application to Northern Ireland this section shall have effect as if references to a sanctionable benefit were references only to a war pension.
 
 
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