Maximum benefit fraud fines could be increased to £5,000

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The maximum administrative penalty for benefit fraud that can be offered as an alternative to prosecution could be doubled under government proposals.

The House of Commons will be asked to approve plans to increase the maximum fine from £2,000 to £5,000.

The government says £1.2bn a year is lost to benefit fraud, and that those who commit the crime should "pay a heavy price".

If approved the changes would take effect from 1 April 2015.

The higher penalty would be levied on top of the recovery of money falsely claimed, and a four week loss of benefits

The changes - embodied in the draft Social Security (Penalty and Alternative to Prosecution) (Maximum Amount) Order 2015 - are due to be debated by MPs on Thursday.

Labour is supporting the increase in fines but said the government should do more to crack down on welfare fraud and waste.

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