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Len Cook, registrar general for England and Wales, today published a ...
Len Cook, registrar general for England and Wales, today published a

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

development work on this UK Government project.

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.

Background notes

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

register is:

- name (wit h alternatives, for example, women may use their maiden

name and their married name in different circumstances);

- address(es);

- date and place of birth (to distinguish between people with the

same name);

- date of death;

- sex;

- 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.

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