Supplementary Data Sharing Workshop: General Registrars Office proposal | 15 January 2016 | Meeting note

When: 10:30-12:00, 15 January 2016

Where: Conference Room B, 70 Whitehall, London, SW1A 2HQ


Session Info/details to cover
Welcome and introductions


Purpose of the session:

Recap of discussion from 6th and what we want to cover today

Quick recap of “principles” for discussion


Presentation of General Register Office Proposals (John Duffy)


Presentation of the proposals, including areas that were not comprehensively covered in the session on the 6th.


High level Q&A


General questions of clarification on the presentation.
Discussion of GRO proposals Discussion of the proposals in smaller groups
Plenary Discussion of proposals Groups to report back to the room on their discussions
Wrap-up and close.


Wrap up and forward look

Introduction from Sue Bateman, Cabinet Office who acted as facilitator, in the place of Involve.

This session was additional to the 6th of Jan and 19th of Jan sessions, to look more closely at the GRO proposals.

A Re-cap of the meeting on the 6th, which covered the main OPM strands of Research and Statistics, Fraud and Tailored Public Services, which garnered support for further development. We also discussed revised proposals on Identified Data and Debt and new proposals from DECC and GRO.

A number of comments were generated in discussion, some of which were incorporated into the pack that was circulated on 14th January; there are some that will require further exploration.

One of the main points we took away from the session on the GRO proposals was a lack of time to get into any of the details and some concerns expressed by a few people that this power would lead inadvertently to a national ID database that we wanted to discuss as a clear principle of the OPM is to avoid the creation of such databases.

This (GRO) session was run to give the opportunity to ask questions and have a more detailed discussion – these will inform the considerations around this policy area and how it fits into the package being proposed and the advice being given to the minister. A note of the meeting will go to the whole OPM group.

The OPM principles were covered as a way of framing the discussions:

Transparency – non-attributed comments but everything will be written up and made available.

Accessibility – everyone is open to engage if they have interest.

Collaboration – constructively participating in the process, there is no expectation of reaching consensus as an outcome but to know where the areas of broad agreement lie is an aim.

John Duffy presentation:

Civil Registration in England and Wales sits within a local authority framework and records are held centrally.

Slide 1 – Civil Registration is where someone goes to their local registration office and provide information which is collected and recorded, obtaining a certificate which are used for accessing services from government partners and service providers. Death certificates are required to close bank accounts etc. Certificates have a role and purpose in society, as the information obtained as part of that process.

Currently there is a complex and dated legislative framework that dates back to 1836.

There is a piecemeal data sharing approach taken to share data between departments, where data sharing is not possible, purchasing of records is required.

Slide 2 – The proposal is to introduce a discretionary power to allow civil registration information to be shared with public bodies for the purpose of fulfilling public functions.

The proposals are looking for discretionary information to be shared with public bodies through a gateway. The intention is to ensure complete transparency over what records are held and shared, providing an outline of the policy and the circumstances whereby information can be shared. Information and data will be shared within the public sector, not beyond this.

Slide 3 – The proposals are limited to England and Wales only, there is no intention to change the way civil registration information is currently obtained or held. There is no intention to link up civil registration records or to create a citizen database.

Slide 4 – benefits of the proposals are:

  • Improved customer experience
  • Improved security
  • Enabling public sector transformation
  • Increasing efficiencies across government

Slide 5 – Safeguards – strict adherence to the ICO data sharing code of practice.

Questions of clarification raised in plenary:

Q: For the data sharing powers to have any relevance will the remaining un-digitized records be digitized?

A: There is no funding to do this, so there are constraints.

Q: What do you have?

A: There are a huge number of records, half of which are digitized. Modern records are digitized by default and older records are digitized due to work around genealogy etc.

Q: Could funding be realised to digitize this information?

A: in terms of the records, they are available in different formats that aren’t on a system yet. There is still an ability to share information where possible. This is about enabling transformation across government, and this power would allow the sharing.

Q: What is the volume of the information that will be shared?

A: there is an opportunity for all records to be digitized on a system.

Q: Public authorities – looking at this in the broadest sense, is there any intention to provide this data to other bodies that have a public mandate such as ONS? For help with the census etc.

A: If the bodies are specified and there were affirmative procedures then the data could be shared.

Discussion Session:


  • For the citizen – partial digitization,
  • Within government – administrative cost savings.
  • Benefits to research/genealogists.
  • Improve protection against ID theft.
  • Could help to make the remaining digitization of paper document happen.
  • Identity fraud and issues around death registration would be improved.
  • Clarifying the legal scenario clear and replete with safeguards.
  • Benefits e.g. ensuring everyone who is eligible for a pension can claim it at the right time.

Concerns/potential issues

  • Handling and comms issues.
  • Patchy digitization.
  • Purpose and necessity as well as proportionality needs to be understood.
  • How will this legislation fit with DPA and future protection legislation without ‘trumping’ it?
  • Potential unintended consequences of onward disclosure between depts.
  • Issue about sharing parts of personal data, how to avoid the mosaic effect.
  • Architectural limitations stopping data being linked, will this always be the case? How do you safeguard against unauthorised disclosure?
  • One thing making an argument for case-by-case sharing, but quite another to talk about bulk data sharing.
  • On the transparency requirement – a public list of records being used would be desirable.
  • Links to Verify programme?
  • Risks around the data sharing, how it would work? What will be in the code of practice?
  • GRO to clarify what type of data sharing would be expected (beyond just a yes/no dichotomy).

Additional Points:

  • In terms of reducing identity theft – this could work if you remove the need for certificates, but with using digital systems this could increase the risk of bulk hacking and fewer, but greater magnitude, of theft.
  • The DPA may not be enough if the legislation removes the principle.
  • Will this process enable the big bulk of records to increase in footprint size?
  • Concrete concern is whether this data could end up inadvertently resulting in a quasi-ID system (i.e. not by design).

Any further questions, please direct to

Event Attendees:

Silkie Carlo (Liberty)

Javier Ruiz (Open Rights Group)

Frances Pottier (Department for Business, Innovation & Skills)

Sue Bateman (Cabinet Office)

Sam Roberts (Cabinet Office)

Firoze Salim (Cabinet Office)

Simon Meats (Cabinet Office)

Jackie Riley (HMRC)

John McIlwraith (DWP)

Jess Adkins (Cabinet Office)

Daniele Bega (HMRC)

Gillian Unsworth (HM Passport Office)

Amanda Hillman (DWP)

David Knight (Department of Health)

Edgar Whitley (London School of Economics)

Judith Jones (Information Commissioner’s Office)

John Duffy (HM Passport Office)

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