feasibility study into developing a UK population register, which
would pave the way for more responsive and personalised public
services. He also announced ministerial agreement to do more
A team based within the General Register Office - part of the
Office for National Statistics (ONS) - will carry out the detailed
development work over the next 18 months. Ministers will then
decide whether or not to create a register for use by the public
A joint ONS/Her Majesty's Treasury project team carried out the
feasibility study, which has the working title of the 'Citizen
Information Project'. The feasibility study concludes it should be
possible to build a population register for use by public services
across the UK. This would bring together basic information about
people who are usually resident in the UK.
The population register would be of consistently higher quality than
data currently available in many parts of the public sector and would
include basic information, such as names and addresses, along with
ongoing changes to address and other contact information. It would be
drawn together in a way that is consistent with legislation covering
data protection and privacy.
The resulting population register would have many statistical and
administrative benefits. It would become the authoritative source of
name and address information for use across the public sector. This
would support joined-up delivery and more efficient and effective
transaction and back office services.
The proposal is not about creating a single database of all data held
about people across the public services. The population register
would simply act as the index to existing records held in different
databases. These records could only be linked when specifically
authorised by legislation.
All other information needed for public services would continue to be
held securely by the appropriate responsible organisation. This
information would continue to be subject to the protection of
administrative or statistical legislation. Contact information held
confidentially would not be available to users of the population
Mr Cook said: 'The feasibility study shows the population register
has considerable potential for improving public services and for
making it simpler for people to update their name and address details
held by government.'
He went on to emphasise: 'The most critical attribute of such a
register is that it protects privacy and makes it possible to extend
ways to do this as society and commerce become more intrusive. It
should enable each citizen to see the contact data that government
holds on him or her, and to know which public sector organisations
have access to their contact data. The further development work we
are now starting will allow people to judge whether that is
There will be public consultation to explore the issues around the
acceptability of this proposal. Work will be undertaken to draft
legislation needed to establish a register that is compliant with
data protection and privacy law. In this stage the project team will
also define the proposed register in greater detail.
1. The feasibility study was first announced in the July 2002 green
paper on entitlement cards and identity fraud (Cm 5557). An
information note was published on the Registrar General's website
earlier this year (it was also on the HMT website) and this is being
replaced by today's note on the outcome of the feasibility study.
2. A summary of the feasibility study findings is available here.
3. The kind of basic contact information to be held on the population
- name (wit h alternatives, for example, women may use their maiden
name and their married name in different circumstances);
- date and place of birth (to distinguish between people with the
- date of death;
- a unique reference number.
4. This list will be considered further in the forthcoming detailed
development work stage. One option is to add some voluntary
information, such as whether information should be sent to the person
in large print format.
5. The proposal is UK wide. The project team reporting to the
Registrar General for England and Wales will continue to work closely
with other government departments, the devolved administrations,
agencies and local authorities.