HC Deb 21 April 1993 vol 223 cc126-8W
Mr. Duncan

To ask the Secretary of State for Health if the Registrar General will release personal information from the returns from censuses less than 100 years old to assist individuals establish their entitlement to an inheritance.

Mr. Sackville

Census returns for England and Wales which are less than 100 years old are closed to public inspection. Those from the 1921 and more recent censuses are in the custody of the Registrar General and are subject to the Census (Confidentiality) Act 1991. The Registrar General does not release any personal information from the returns for those censuses as long as they are in his custody.

The returns from the 1901 and 1911 censuses have been deposited at the Public Records Office. There is statutory provision for a record held by the Public Records Office to be inspected if special authority is given.

Under concessions previously announced to the House, information on an individual's age and place of birth is made available from the 1901 census on application to the Office of Population Censuses and Surveys and for a charge corresponding to the cost of supplying it. This is conditional on the consent of the person concerned or of a direct descendant in the case of a deceased person, or next of kin if the person died childless. This facility is also available to a public administrator trustee seeking a beneficiary under a will.

The Registrar General has reviewed his practice. While he is not prepared to extend to the 1911 census returns the concession which applies to the 1901 census, he would be willing to consider particular applications for information to be extracted from those returns if it would enable the applicant to establish a legal entitlement such as an inheritance. Such authority would be given only where the information is not available from any other source and is clearly requisite for establishing the entitlement in question. The Registrar General would wish to be fully satisfied from documentary evidence as to the identity of the applicant. Where the desired information from the census form relates to a living person other than the applicant, that person's consent would be required before the information would be released.

The same conditions would apply to applications for information from the 1901 census which went beyond the existing concession relating to age and birthplace.

The applicant would be required to meet the cost of making the search and, where the search is successful, of supplying the information.

These arrangements do not constitute any diminution of the confidentiality accorded to the records in conformity with the assurances printed on the forms of return for the censuses in question.