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Britain to use ID card database as national register

Public agencies will be able to use personal information submitted to database as part of compulsory ID card scheme.

The British government says its ID card database will become a national population register of basic personal information that its agencies can use to verify identity.

It has called for the development of a children's register as well.

The U.K. Treasury confirmed this week that the newly created Identity and Passport Service (IPS) will take over from the Office for National Statistics on work on the Citizen Information Project. The project is meant to create an adult population register containing a person's name, address, date of birth and a unique ID reference number.

"The IPS should be responsible for developing the national identity register as an adult population database. Over time, public sector systems, business processes and culture should be adapted to use the NIR as the definitive source of contact details in the longer term," Des Browne, the chief secretary to the Treasury, said in a statement to the U.K. parliament.

The British government's plan to introduce ID cards with biometric data has run into criticism from groups that oppose the creation of a national database of personal information. The House of Lords, the U.K. government's second chamber, put up resistance to an initial proposal that would have forced British citizens applying for a passport to also pay for an ID card and have their details added to the ID database. A compromise now allows people not to have to buy a card until 2010.

The NIR will only contain details of adults over the age of 16, but a national child population database could also be created.

"The Department for Education and Skills should also consider whether there is scope to realize further efficiency and effectiveness benefits through a child population register," Browne said.

Until the NIR is up and running, the Treasury said, it should be a priority for Revenue and Customs, and the Department for Work and Pensions, to look at short-term arrangements for wider use of the National Insurance number, the equivalent of a Social Security number. The two government departments should also find ways to better share the personal information they hold.

"There is significant value to both citizens and the public sector in greater sharing of contact details--name, address, date of birth, reference numbers--in a secure way across the public sector," Browne said.

Andy McCue of reported from London.