Treasury Minister Paul Boateng made a statement in Parliament about the
Citizen's Information Project and the National Identity Register.
"Written Ministerial Statements
Thursday 28 October 2004
Citizen Information Project
The Chief Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Paul Boateng): On January 6 2004, Official Report, column 7WS, I announced that the Registrar General for England and Wales would lead on the next stage of development work for a UK population register. This work is being conducted by a project team based within the Office for National Statistics (ONS) and is known as the citizen information project (CIP). It is concerned with whether or not the use of a population register would improve the quality of basic data held by Government, generate efficiency savings across Government and support improved public services. I am now able to update the House on progress and on the programme of work over the rest of this stage of development.
The work has confirmed the feasibility study findings that a UK population register has the potential to generate efficiency benefits and service improvements across Government. The CIP team has investigated the costs and benefits of a range of potential options for delivering a population register. It has recommended that proposals for a national identity register (NIR), as part of the Government's proposals for ID cards, mean that if ID cards were to become compulsory then it may be more cost effective to deliver these benefits through the NIR, rather than develop a separate register. The Government has accepted this recommendation.
ONS is now in the second stage of project definition and will report to Ministers by June 2005. This includes examining in more detail how the NIR could function as a population register and exploring opportunities for adding value to existing database developments that could be cost effective ahead of the NIR reaching maturity. ONS is also exploring how efficiency and analytical requirements that cover the whole population, rather than just adults, can be met."
If the Citizen Information Project feasability study stage 2 plans are not brought before Ministers until June 2005, this could delay the publication of the ID Card Bill, which is promised in the Queen's Speech this November, until then i.e. after the General Election supposedly in May 2005.
This delay would be needed in order to shoehorn the extra personal data from Births, Marriages and Deaths registers into the National Identity Register.
This implies centralised storage of all sorts of controversial extra personal data like religion, race, gender etc. which can be derived or assumed from say Marriage Certificates.
This also implies the need to extend the coverage of the NIR from the currently planned 48 million or so people over the age of 16, to include the 11 million or so children under that age as well.
There is still no clarification how the massive database proposed in the controversial Children Bill will integrate or compete for resources with either the CIP or the NIR.
Alternatively, the ID Scheme Bill will be made even more wide ranging and there will not be a specific list of exactly what data is to be stored on the NIR or the smart card written clearly on the face of the Bill.
In some ways it would be better if the Office of National Statistics CIP project took over the NIR from the Home Office, as the ONS has a better culture of of protecting individuals' data from trawling by the police etc. after years of handling Census Data, under penalty of 2 years in jail for breaking Census secrecy, but, of course, "absolute power corrupts absolutely".