Rachel Reeves Pledges Covid Fraud Crackdown In Barnstorming Labour Conference Speech

The shadow chancellor said the party was "ready to serve, ready to lead, ready to rebuild Britain".
Rachel Reeves delivering her speech to the Labour Party conference in Liverpool.
Rachel Reeves delivering her speech to the Labour Party conference in Liverpool.
Leon Neal via Getty Images

A Labour government would recover billions of pounds lost to Covid fraud as part of its mission to “rebuild Britain”, Rachel Reeves has declared.

The shadow chancellor said taxpayers had lost £7.2bn during the pandemic, with “every single one of those cheques signed by Rishi Sunak as chancellor”.

She said that if Labour wins the next election, it will appoint a “Covid corruption commissioner” whose job it will be to recover as much of that money as possible.

In a barnsotring speech to the Labour conference which earned several standing ovations, Reeves also said she would crack down on the use of private jets by government ministers.

On Covid fraud, she said: “We will go after those who profited from the carnival of waste during the pandemic.

“Today, the cost to the taxpayer of covid fraud is estimated at £7.2 billion, with every single one of those cheques signed by Rishi Sunak as Chancellor.

“And yet just 2% of all fraudulent covid grants have been recovered. So, I can announce today that we will appoint a Covid corruption commissioner.

“Supported by a hit squad of investigators, equipped with the powers they need and the mandate to do whatever it takes to chase down those who have ripped off the taxpayer, take them to court, and claw back every penny of taxpayer’s money that they can.

“That money belongs in our NHS, it belongs in our schools, it belongs in our police. And conference, we want our money back.

“We are ready to serve, we are ready to lead, we are ready to rebuild Britain.”

Reeves also said she would “crack down on Tory ministers’ private jet habit”.

“What is Rishi Sunak so scared of up there in his private jet - meeting a voter?,” she said.

“We will enforce the ministerial code on the use of private planes and save millions of pounds for taxpayers in the process.”

As expected, Reeves confirmed Labour would close the loophole which exempts private schools from putting VAT on their fees, with the money raised being ploughed into state education.

In an attempt to blunt Tory accusations that a Labour government would embark upon a spending splurge which could drive up inflation and interest rates, Reeves said she would impose “iron-clad fiscal rules” if she becomes chancellor.

She said: “The exhaustion of Conservative ideas does not give us the freedom to push through programmes detached from our present economic reality, or to take for granted the people we seek to represent.

“Change will be achieved only on the basis of iron discipline. Working people rightly expect nothing less.

“Because when you play fast and loose with public finances, you put at risk family finances”


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