Labour will press the government for the first “national fraud strategy” in a decade as figures show fraud and financial scams affecting consumers and businesses hit a record £1.3bn of lost cash last year.
The party will seek to force a vote on the financial services and markets bill with an amendment calling for a new fraud strategy, as households and businesses are losing more than ever.
Tabling an amendment to the bill, Tulip Siddiq, the shadow City minister, said ministers needed to get a grip on scams and fraud at a time when the cost of living was hurting people’s finances.
The government last brought forward a national fraud strategy in 2011, with nothing published in the meantime despite the explosion of online financial scams.
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The bill is aimed at overhauling financial regulation, including asking regulators to have secondary objectives of encouraging economic growth and bearing net zero goals in mind.
It is also expected to hand sweeping powers to Treasury ministers to “call-in” regulatory decisions that they disagree with if it is deemed “in the public interest” in a move that some have warned will interfere in the independence of financial regulators.
Others have criticised the bill for being a missed opportunity in terms of tackling fraud and getting to grips with the world of digital assets. The social justice campaign group Global Justice Now has said the bill will “give even more power” to the financial sector.
Siddiq said the government had failed to get to deal with “new types of fraud – such as identify theft and online scams – which has seen criminals get rich at the public’s expense, with people’s life savings stolen and their economic security put at risk”.
“It’s time to give enforcement agencies the powers they need to crack down on digitally savvy criminals and track stolen money through payment system operators, electric money institutions and crypto asset firms,” she said.
“If the government is serious about tackling fraud it will support our amendment, which would allow regulators and enforcement agencies to pursue and bring criminals to justice wherever they hide their stolen money and protect people’s financial security.”
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She said Labour was calling for a single dedicated national strategy to tackle fraud, and wanted ministers to “support investigators and the sector to prevent fraud and track stolen money by putting in place a data-sharing agreement that extends beyond just the banks to include social media companies, crypto assets firms and payment system operators”.
A spokesperson for the government said it would publish a fraud strategy “which will consider all possible tools required to go after fraudsters and protect those who are most vulnerable to these crimes. It is crucial that we work together – with industry, law enforcement, courts, and the third sector – to make sure there is no safe space for fraudsters.
“The government remains absolutely committed to cracking down on the shameless scammers stealing cash from hard-working families.”