Lord Agnew, who quit in protest from his role as anti-fraud minister in January, told MPs that Treasury attempts to stop fraud on Covid business loans was a 'Dad's Army operation'
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Ex-Treasury minister Lord Agnew says it was ‘happy days if you were a crook’ at the start of the pandemic because the Government’s Covid anti-fraud measures were a ‘Dad’s Army operation’

  • Lord Agnew quit his role as the Government’s anti-fraud minister back in January
  • He resigned in anger over the Treasury’s handling of fraud in Covid loans system
  • Today he said the Treasury’s anti-fraud efforts were a ‘Dad’s Army operation’ 

A former Treasury minister who resigned in anger over the Government’s handling of fraudulent coronavirus loans today said it was ‘happy days if you were a crook’ at the start of the pandemic. 

Lord Agnew, who quit in protest from his role as anti-fraud minister in January, told MPs that Treasury attempts to stop fraud on Covid business loans was a ‘Dad’s Army operation’. 

He also said fraud was so rampant that he wrote letters to congratulate Border Force officials after they stopped ‘suitcases of cash leaving the country’.    

His comments came two months after the Treasury confirmed that it wrote off £4.3billion worth of the £5.8billion of fraud witnessed across its Covid business loan schemes.

Lord Agnew, who quit in protest from his role as anti-fraud minister in January, told MPs that Treasury attempts to stop fraud on Covid business loans was a 'Dad's Army operation'

Lord Agnew, who quit in protest from his role as anti-fraud minister in January, told MPs that Treasury attempts to stop fraud on Covid business loans was a ‘Dad’s Army operation’

Lord Agnew previously accused Rishi Sunak and the Treasury of making 'schoolboy errors' in tackling abuse of Covid support schemes

Lord Agnew previously accused Rishi Sunak and the Treasury of making ‘schoolboy errors’ in tackling abuse of Covid support schemes 

The ex-minister said he stepped down from his role after deciding he could not defend actions in regards to bounce back loans for smaller firms, where the Treasury reported £4.9billion worth of fraud.

He told the Treasury Select Committee: ‘Intellectually and at a top policy level I believe it was an important intervention.

‘It was there to protect the productive capacity of our small business sector in this country and we were facing so many unknowns at that point it was a reasonable thing to do.

‘So I have no issue with the principle of doing it but it is all about the implementation and again, I have no problem that we will probably see very substantial credit losses on that loan scheme, again, that is fine, we had to get the money out quickly to our legitimate businesses and give them the lifeline they needed.

‘That is all fine. But on the fraud side, it was just a Dad’s Army operation.’

Asked if he meant the Treasury anti-fraud operation was a bit of a ‘joke’, he replied: ‘Yes. Absolutely.’

The former minister said it took officials ‘six weeks’ to create a system which could catch fraudsters making duplicate claims for loans but that ’60 per cent of the money had already gone out of the door’.

He added: ‘I was writing letters of congratulation to Border Force staff for picking up suitcases of cash leaving the country.

‘It was happy days if you were a crock in those first few months and rather than just admitting it there is all “oh no, this was a price worth paying”.

‘It wasn’t a price worth paying.’ 

Lord Agnew announced he was resigning from the Government while standing at the despatch box in the House of Lords in January. 

His announcement prompted gasps from peers as he took aim at ‘schoolboy errors’ in tackling abuse of Covid support schemes. 

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