HL Deb 14 October 2003 vol 653 cc112-3WA
Lord Lester of Herne Hill

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they intend to create a citizens’ information register to bring together the existing information held by the Government and their agents on the citizens of the United Kingdom. [HL4616]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Culture, Media and Sport (Lord McIntosh of Haringey)

The information requested falls within the responsibility of the Registrar General, who has been asked to reply.

Letter from the Registrar General, Len Cook, dated 14 October 2003.

As Registrar General for England and Wales, I have been asked to reply to your recent question about a citizens information register. (HL4616).

There is a joint project between HM Treasury and the Office of the Registrar General for England & Wales to examine the feasibility of holding up-to-date contact details (name, address, date of birth and a unique personal number) of everyone in a population register. The intention would be to simplify citizens' life, for example when they move address, and also improve delivery of some public services. This project is called the "citizen information project" (the CIP). An information note about the CIP has been available on the Treasury website and the General Register Office website (http://www.statistics.gov.uk/ registration/cip.asp) since February 2003 and was updated in August. The project is also mentioned in the latest ONS Annual Report to Parliament (the Registrar General's activities are reported alongside those of the National Statistician) and in a recent review of population estimates. The Annual Report will be examined by the Treasury Select Committee on 15 October.

The feasibility study was presented to Ministers in June 2003 and I will publish it after Ministers have considered it. The report recommends further investigative work, which it is anticipated will last between 15 and 18 months before any final decision is taken. During this period, there would be full public consultation and the preparation of legislation, which would be necessary to create such a register.

Moreover, any proposals that emerge will be fully consistent with data protection and privacy law. Any personal information collected by me, as Registrar General, is subject to confidentiality obligations defined by law. I will publish a study on whether or not this project can be done once the appropriate further investigations and consultation have been completed.