Brexit minister Jacob Rees-Mogg has today said the Treasury “hasn’t been serious” about Covid fraud amid recent figures showing that more than £10bn was lost to scammers.
In a further attack on Tory leadership frontrunner Rishi Sunak, Rees-Mogg said on his podcast that the ex-chancellor’s economic policies and “the approach of the Treasury as an instiution has been very damaging to the British economy and indeed the Conservative party’s electoral chances”.
The UK’s fraud minister Lord Theodore Agnew resigned in February out of frustration with the government’s inaction on Covid fraud, telling a Westminster committee that the episode was “one of the most colossal cock-ups in recent government management”.
Almost £6bn was lost to scammers through three Covid schemes – the furlough scheme, the self employment income scheme and Eat to Help Out – while another £5bn was lost through the Bounce Back Loan scheme.
The Bounce Back Loan scheme saw banks hand out £47bn to businesses, with the government taking on 100 per cent of the default risk, with virtually no checks required.
Rees-Mogg said: “Why did Lord Agnew resign? Because the Treasury wasn’t serious about fraud. Why wasn’t it serious about fraud? Because it’s embarrassed about how it structured the Bounce Back Loans.
“I’ll defend the structure of the Bounce Back Loans, because I think the issue was urgency, but you should now be as hot as mustard on getting money back from fraud and the Treasury hasn’t been serious about it.
“The approach of the Treasury has been damaging this government under Rishi’s stewardship.”
It comes as the Boris Johnson loyalist today backed foreign secretary Liz Truss to be the next leader of the Tory party and Prime Minister.
He has attacked Sunak throughout today for outlining policies post-Covid which would bring the UK’s tax burden to its highest point since the 1940s.