Examination of Witnesses (Questions 60-67)|
26 OCTOBER 2004
Q60 Chairman: We have a lot of people
called Ditto. You will know that in Mongolia they are just going
over to enforcing a law which was passed about seven years ago
where people have to have a surname for the first time ever, and
most of them are choosing to have something relating to Genghis
Khan. It is causing them serious problems. You know there was
a tender offer for the IT for this. Having seen in the past the
problems we have had with new computers in the Passport Office
and various other departmentsnot this Government's fault,
I have to say, the previous Government's fault; perhaps I am being
politicaldo you think there are any dangers of not having
necessarily a proven IT system in place when this comes in. Are
there any dangers?
Mr Riggs: I think the main danger
is that most over-run is in terms of funding. Because of that
we are suspicious that there will be insufficient left over to
be able to do the historic records. There is over-run in terms
of time and in finance costs.
Ms Churchill: Going back to the
consultation on this, because we have no real clues about the
implementation of the RRO but we are seeing some practicalities
about the tendering going ahead, our experience shows us that
unless the end-user of this data is involved right from the beginning
and listened to on consultation, implementation and development
of this database, it will not be perceived as being usable and
of use to the end-user. We were involved in a consultation process
for the 1901 census, for example, and all our views were not taken
although we know as the end-user what we need from this database.
We would seriously advocate there is consultation in the implementation
process as well.
Q61 Dr Naysmith: You see yourselves as
the end-users, because there are all sorts of other competitors
Ms Churchill: Absolutely. We buy
a lot of certificates at the moment from the General Registration
Service, and we would suspect we are probably one of the core
users for the vast majority of records.
Mr Ratcliffe: This is an exciting
opportunity to make sure there is a really accurate index produced
compared with the indexes at the moment which have a number of
faults in them. If the finance was there to do the job properly,
this would set a precedent for future projects and this Committee
would be particularly commended for getting through this Order
which would have tremendous benefits for the future.
Q62 Chairman: Basically, you are in favour
of the Order providing we try and ensure the Government take note
of the concerns you have put today and in your written submissions?
You would want to see it go through?
Mr Ratcliffe: Yes.
Chairman: Has any member any final point?
Q63 Mr Havard: Can I raise one small
point, this thing about keying? I thought, Chairman, we were told
by ONS there was going to be a double keying of information. What
was said was that they will check twice they have not put in the
wrong information they have received from the front end.
Mr Riggs: Our experience from
the past, certainly with the 1901 census, which I can quote as
being a Government-led initiative, was that there was only a sample
done of what had been keyed in, and if that sample was not found
to be sufficiently accurate it would be redone. If that small
sample was sufficiently accurate, they would not bother checking
the rest of it. So there was no double keying in terms of the
1901 census. Other examples from commercial companies with earlier
census years was that there was an even higher rate and that also
was done overseas. Of interest to Dr Naysmith, Bristol has gone
to Georgia, and you have Pip'n'Jay, I believeSt Philip's
in Bristolthat has now become the Philippines. These are
laughable to a certain extent but as far as people trying to find
out details are concerned, they will not find the records if the
records are not accurately keyed in. That is why I cannot stress
enough our concern about overseas keying.
Q64 Dr Iddon (attending the Committee pursuant
to Standing Order 141(13)): Can I ask one question? Do you
think the 100 year lock on people's personal data from birth is
adequate, or should it be longer in view of the fact that more
people are living beyond 100 years now?
Mr Riggs: We welcome the fact
it has already been relaxed to 75 following our earlier proposals.
It is 75 for birth registers and 25 for deaths.
Mr Ratcliffe: This brings us into
line with the Scottish system which again is commendable. We have
two different systems within the British Isles, and it is better
to have systems compatible with each other.
Mr Riggs: I think the date of
the record is a far more practical system than the age of the
person concerned, which is impractical and unworkable. That has
been acknowledged and amended.
Q65 Chairman: Fine. Your evidence has
been helpful this morning. Is there any final point you want to
make before you go, any point you feel we should have asked and
Mr Ratcliffe: The main point I
would like to emphasise is we would like to see consistency of
standards of access across the country and also that the standard
of indexing, the digitisation, is of the highest possible quality
so it reflects well on the ONS and the registration service.
Q66 Dr Naysmith: Are you saying the standard
of access varies a lot now?
Mr Ratcliffe: Yes.
Q67 Dr Naysmith: So you are looking on
this as a way of improving things, not just saying that it has
to be as good as it is now?
Mr Ratcliffe: That is right, we
would like the minimum standard to be the highest standard at
the moment rather than the lowest standard.
Dr Naysmith: Thank you.
Chairman: If, when you have gone away,
you think, "We should have said that and we didn't",
by all means write in, but do so as soon as possible because we
have a fairly tight timetable and we have to complete consideration
of this proposal before the end of November and we have to publish
a report before the end of November, so we do not have all that
much time. Thank you very much for coming along this morning.