The Identity and Passport Service has challenged claims that it has “grabbed” access to data on births and deaths produced by local register offices.
Last week, the government announced that the General Register Office, which oversees local registration of births and deaths, would become part of the IPS from next year – a move IPS chief executive James Hall said would “allow us to explore the possibility of integrating passport, identity card and life event registration processes”.
The No2ID campaign – which opposes the government’s £5.4bn ID card programme – hit out at the merger plan. National coordinator Phil Booth said it was “deeply worrying” that the GRO, a “formerly independent agency should be subsumed in this way, with no debate and for no apparent reason other than bureaucratic convenience”.
He added: “The ID programme is insinuating itself deeper and deeper into people's lives. This is not so much 'feature creep' as a blatant land-grab of personal identity.”
But an IPS spokesperson said: “The allegation about IPS 'grabbing' for GRO is factually incorrect. A new home had to be found for GRO because the Office for National Statistics, which it is part of, is to become the Statistics Board, completely independent of ministers.
“GRO's policy areas however continue - rightly - to require ministerial accountability. IPS is clearly the most sensible place for it to go, not least because of the previous cooperation between the two organisations on protecting identity.”
GRO is not currently independent of ministers, but is accountable to Treasury ministers as part of the ONS, he pointed out.
An order made under section 38 of the Identity Cards Act, allowing “data sharing between GRO and IPS for passport applications was put before Parliament in July and agreed after Commons and Lords debates”, the IPS spokesperson added.
The Information Commissioner had been consulted and the order was “in accordance with the Data Protection Act”, he said.
The latest round in the controversy over ID cards follows the Conservative Party’s repeated threats to axe the scheme. But the threat – which angered suppliers – has now receded, following prime minister Gordon Brown’s decision not to call an early general election.