Treasury minister Lord Agnew resigns over government's 'lamentable' record on tackling COVID business loan fraud
By SEAMLESS DAILY
24 January 2022
The former minister said government oversight of the various coronavirus business schemes has been "nothing less than desperately inadequate" and that "schoolboy errors were made".
Lord Agnew, who was both a Treasury and Cabinet Office minister, dramatically quit his role in Boris Johnson's government in the House of Lords on Monday afternoon, saying the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy had shown a "lamentable" oversight of COVID loan schemes which has resulted in large amounts of fraud being committed.
The peer told the chamber that the Treasury "appears to have no knowledge or little interest in the consequences of fraud to our economy or our society", adding that a mix of "arrogance, indolence and ignorance freezes the government machine".
This is not an attack on the prime minister and I'm sorry for the inconvenience it will cause."
The National Audit Office has estimated that as much as £5bn of this could have been fraudulently claimed.
Johnson's spokesperson said : "We are grateful to Lord Agnew for the significant contribution he has made to government.
I want to thank him for his dedicated service and tireless work during the pandemic."
He was updating peers about £4.3bn of loans- written off by the Treasury- which Labour said has gone to "fraudsters".
"Given that I am the minister for counter-fraud, it would be somewhat dishonest to stay on in that role if I am incapable of doing it properly," he said.
"it is for this reason that i have sadly decided to tender my resignation as a minister across the treasury and cabinet office with immediate effect.
"it is worth saying that none of this relates to far more dramatic political events being played out across westminster.
Labour's Rachel Reeves, the shadow chancellor, said Agnew ’ s resignation was a "damning indictment of the chancellor and the government ’ s failures on fraud".
"That the government's own anti-fraud minister feels he is unable to defend the government's record on billions of pounds of taxpayer cash gifted to criminals tells you all you need to know about the incompetence of this government," Ms Reeves said in a statement.
After concluding his resignation speech, Lord Agnew exited the chamber to applause from some peers.
"on the wider issues that he's raised, we introduced our unprecedented covid support schemes at speed to protect jobs and livelihoods, helping millions of people across the uk, including nearly £12m on the furlough scheme alone.
"we 've always been clear fraud is unacceptable and are taking action against those abusing the system, with 150,000 ineligible claims blocked, £500m recovered last year and the hmrc tax protection taskforce is expected to recover an additional £1bn of taxpayers' money."
Back in 2018, Lord Bates stunned peers when he announced he would quit as he was "ashamed" for failing to turn up on time in the upper chamber.
Here are five things you need to know about the coronavirus pandemic this Monday evening.
treasury minister lord agnew has resigned from the government handled fraudulent covid business loans.
HMRC said "robust measures were put in place to control error and fraud in the key coronavirus support schemes".
First Minister Mark Drakeford said he would "not rule out" giving NHS jobs to the unvaccinated.
It comes as people arriving in England from abroad will no longer have to take Covid tests if they have been vaccinated, Boris Johnson said on Monday.
Further details are expected to be given later on Monday.
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