Conservative minister Lord Agnew resigned in the House of Lords yesterday over how the government has handled fraudulent Covid loans.
In response to a Labour question about the £4.3bn of Covid loans written off by the Treasury, he read out a dramatic speech venting his anger.
The Minister accused the Treasury of having “no knowledge” or “little interest” in the consequences of fraud to the economy.
Although he stated his resignation was not an attack on the Prime Minister, he said he couldn’t stay in good conscience.
Lord Agnew read: “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.
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.”
He criticized the government’s “arrogance, indolence and ignorance” in response to Covid loans fraud.
The Minister called out “schoolboy errors,” such as giving over 1,000 companies Covid loans despite them not trading.
He described the oversight of the scheme as “nothing less than woeful.”
Lord Agnew added: “I hope that as a virtually unknown minister beyond this place, it might prompt others more important beyond me to get behind this and sort it out.”
Concluding with “thank you and goodbye,” the resignation speech was met with a round of applause as he strode out of the chamber.
The Bounce Bank Loan Scheme was introduced in April 2020, intending to save smaller businesses from failing due to the pandemic.
Following applications from a quarter of UK businesses, 1.5 million loans were handed out with a sum of £47bn.
It is estimated that a 11% of these Covid loans were fraudulent.
Shadow chancellor, Labour’s Rachel Reeves responded: “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.
It should be a source of enduring shame to the chancellor that he has so casually written off £4.3bn of taxpayers’ money that is now in the hands of criminals and gangs.”
Reeves added: “Labour would treat every pound of taxpayer money with the respect it deserves.”
In Lord Agnew’s speech, he apologized for the inconvenience his resignation will cause the Prime Minister.
A spokesperson for the Prime Minister said: “We are grateful to Lord Agnew for the significant contribution he has made to government.
“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 12 million 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.”
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