HL Deb 25 April 1994 vol 554 cc23-4WA
Lord Marlesford

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Why an offender is given a fresh inmate number every time he starts a new custodial sentence and whether they would consider using the National Insurance number as an alternative to the prison inmate number; and

Why the inmate records of offenders currently serving custodial sentences in England and Wales do not include the inmate's National Insurance number and whether they have any proposals that they should

Earl Ferrers

Reference numbers for prisoners need to be available immediately on a prisoner's reception into custody so that both documentation and the prisoner's property can be clearly linked to him or her. Searching for any previous identity number would cause unacceptable operational delays and it would be costly.

The alternative use of National Insurance numbers is impracticable since it would be dependent on prisoners' willingness and ability to give the correct numbers quickly. There are also certain categories of prisoner, including those of foreign nationality, for whom no National Insurance number exists.

There are long-standing arrangements whereby those in custody for 21 days or longer are asked for national insurance and benefits information, which is passed to the government departments and agencies concerned. This is being supplemented by computerised information about existing convicted and newly convicted prisoners. The Prison Service has no further use for national insurance information.