RISHI Sunak has been forced to deny "writing off" billions of pounds of taxpayers' cash lost to fraudsters from Covid-19 support schemes.

The Chancellor acknowledged "criminals have sought to exploit our support schemes", but added: "We're going to do everything we can to get that money back and go after those who took advantage of the pandemic."

Treasury minister Lord Agnew of Oulton quit the Government at the despatch box over the "schoolboy" handling of fraudulent Covid business loans.

Parliament has heard the Treasury expects to write off about £4.3 billion of Covid loans, with money having gone to "fraudsters". The Treasury has since disputed this figure.

READ MORE: Lord Agnew of Oulton: Who is the minister who resigned live in the House of Lords?

Sunak, writing on Twitter, said: "A lot of people are concerned about fraud in our Covid support measures and they're absolutely right to be.
"No, I'm not ignoring it, and I'm definitely not 'writing it off'."

He outlined investment to tackle the issue before adding: "The vast majority of people did the right thing but we are still addressing incorrect claims.

"Last year we stopped or recovered nearly £2.2 billion in potential fraud from Bounce Back Loans and £743 million of overclaimed furlough grants."

Sunak went on to defend the need to deliver money urgently to firms during the pandemic.

At Prime Minister's Questions, Boris Johnson had appeared to indicate he had not agreed with writing off £4.3 billion of fraud from the support schemes.

Labour's Kate Osamor asked: "Did the Prime Minister agree to the Chancellor writing off £4.3 billion of fraud? That's £154 for every household in the country that went directly into the pockets of fraudsters."

The Prime Minister responded: "No, of course not. We do not support fraudsters or those who steal from the public purse."

The Prime Minister's official spokesman later insisted Johnson was saying that he did not condone fraud, rather than that he had not agreed with the Chancellor.

"I thought he was more asked if he was happy with fraud, that was what I took from that," the spokesman said.

An urgent question was later asked in the Commons about delays to promised legislation to tackle economic crime.

Conservative former minister John Penrose said: "Based on what Lord Agnew has said, if it were to be true, can I please urge (the minister) to consider that it will be about as popular as a cup of cold sick with anybody out there who is concerned about the fight against corruption, or the fight for transparency.

"The well of excuses after three or four years of promising this piece of legislation, or its related pieces, has now run dry, and it is absolutely essential for the credibility of this country and of this Government, particularly at a time when we have a crisis in Ukraine and all sorts of Russian oligarchs waiting to move money into this country if they possibly can, and there are questions ... about fundamental questions of integrity about Westminster here today."

Business minister Paul Scully said the Government remains "undiminished in our approach to tackling economic crime" as well as "Companies House reform" as he responded to an urgent question from Conservative Kevin Hollinrake.

However he would not confirm whether the Government will be scrapping plans for a new law to deal with economic crime.

Scully said: "I am sure he understands I am not going to speculate on the content of any future Queen's Speech. That is where the Government will be setting out its legislative agenda for the next parliamentary session.

"However, I can confirm the Government is committed to tackling economic crime."