Data sharing drives Passport Service takeover of GRO

The General Register Office, which oversees the registration of births and deaths, is to become part of the Identity and Passport Service in a move that is likely to see sharply increased data sharing between the two bodies.

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The General Register Office, which oversees the registration of births and deaths, is to become part of the Identity and Passport Service in a move that is likely to see sharply increased data sharing between the two bodies.

The reorganisation, announced alongside chancellor Alistair Darling’s pre-budget report, will take effect in April next year, when the GRO’s current parent body, the Office for National Statistics, is reconstituted to become independent of ministers.

Home Office minister Meg Hillier said: "The Identity and Passport Service and the General Register Office for England and Wales are already working closely together. In order to take this work a step further and fully realise the benefits of combining registration of life events in England and Wales and the issuing of passports, it is sensible that the IPS and GRO should be part of the same organisation."

The two organisations are looking at giving IPS staff online access to births and deaths information which could be cross checked with ID card or passport applications. Data sharing between the two bodies was given a legal basis in July by an order made under section 38 of the Identity Cards Act.

IPS chief executive James Hall said: “Working as one organisation will allow us to explore the possibility of integrating passport, identity card and life event registration processes. This would reduce red tape and make life easier for people, as well as strengthen the integrity of our systems."

The GRO has previously provided IPS with information to help combat fraud, such the “Day of the Jackal” fraud where dead children’s identities are stolen.

The pre-budget report and comprehensive spending review announcements also included the establishment of a Service Transformation Agreement, restating several measures already launched by the government in a bid to use IT to improve public services.
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