HC Deb 01 December 1988 vol 142 cc383-4W
Mr. Gregory

To ask the Secretary of State for Health when he will publish the consultative document on the reform of the registration service.

Mrs. Currie

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health today published a Green Paper entitled "Registration: a modern service", Cm. 531, containing proposals to reform the system for registering births, marriages and deaths in England and Wales.

In presenting these proposals the Government have recognised that the present 150-year-old system places severe limitations on the service and those responsible for it and that there is a need to restructure it to make it more up to date, flexible and responsive to the demands of today's public.

The Government propose that responsibilities for the management of the registration service should be clarified: local authorities would be fully responsible for managing the service while the Registrar General would set national standards for it and the Office of Population Censuses and Surveys (OPCS) would monitor their implementation. Other measures are proposed which the Government believe will provide a more helpful and supportive service to the public. These include a greater choice for members of the public over the registration district and the building in which they marry; a facility for registering deaths which does not require the informant to travel to the district where the death occurred; some changes in still-birth registration to help meet public concern; improvements in the statistical information collected at the time of registration; safeguards on people's ability to buy certified copies of certificates which relate to the recent births, deaths or marriages of complete strangers; and the legal changes necessary to permit access to early registration records on similar terms as to other historic records. The overall financial effect of these reforms would be to reduce the present net cost of the service both locally and centrally.

These proposals are based upon the efficiency scrutiny of the registration service in England and Wales, which reported in 1985, and on the conclusions of a joint working group of officials from OPCS and the Home Office and representatives of the local authority associations which reported earlier this year.

The majority of these proposals will require amendments to main legislation but before any legislative proposals are presented to the House the Government are inviting comments on the proposals in the Green Paper to be sent to OPCS by 31 March 1989.

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