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Registration of Births, Deaths and Marriages: Internet

Volume 460: debated on Wednesday 23 May 2007

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer (1) what the total cost has been of the scheme for the online registration of births, deaths and marriages; and how much is accounted for by (a) software, (b) hardware, (c) press and publicity to promote the scheme and (d) training costs; (138062)

(2) what assessment he has made of the effectiveness of the scheme for the online registration of births, deaths and marriages in the UK; and what assessment he has made of the suitability of the (a) scheme as a whole and (b) chosen software to handle the volume of transactions required;

(3) what alternative schemes were considered by his Department before the adoption of the chosen scheme for the online registration of births, deaths and marriages in the UK; and what procurement process was followed for the scheme;

(4) what the name is of the software which is being used for the online registration of births, deaths and marriages in the UK; and whether the software was specifically designed for use in the UK;

(5) what representations he has received on the introduction of the on-line registration of births, deaths and marriages in the UK; and what problems have been experienced with the service;

(6) when he expects the national scheme for the online registration of births, deaths and marriages to be reactivated; and what funds have been set aside for that purpose.

The information requested falls within the responsibility of the Registrar General, who has been asked to reply.

Letter from Karen Dunnell, dated 23 May 2007:

As National Statistician and Registrar General for England and Wales I have been asked to reply to your recent Parliamentary Questions asking:

What the total cost has been of the scheme for the online registration of births deaths and marriages and how much is accounted for by (a) software (b) hardware (c) press and publicity to promote the scheme and (d) training costs. (138062)

What assessment has been made of the effectiveness of the scheme for the online registration of births deaths and marriages in the UK and what assessment he has made of the suitability of the (a) scheme as a whole and (b) chosen software to handle volume of transactions required. (138063)

What alternative schemes were considered before the adoption of the chosen scheme for the online registration of births deaths and marriages in the UK and what procurement process was followed for the scheme. (138064)

What the name is of the software which is being used for the online registration of births deaths and marriages in the UK and whether the software was specifically designed for use in the UK. (138065)

What representations have been received on the introduction of the online registration of births deaths and marriages in the UK and what problems have been experienced with the service. (138067)

When is the national scheme for the online registration of births deaths and marriages to be reactivated and what funds have been set aside for that purpose. (138068)

The total cost of the new system (known as “RON”) is just over £6m, of which some £3.5m is for the software, £2.5m is for IT infrastructure, and £60,000 for training. Compared with its predecessor, the new system does not significantly alter the experience for informants when they carry out a registration, so no costs were set aside for publicity.

I expect the RON system to deliver considerable benefits once fully operational, both in terms of the speed with which registration data will become available centrally and the reduction in administrative effort in the General Register Office and local registration offices. There is no question of the software not being capable of handling the volume of transactions required.

There was a full procurement process for the software conducted in accordance with the principles of good procurement laid down by the Office for Government Commerce, and subject to Gateway Review. Before a final choice was made, a range of software products was extensively reviewed, tested and evaluated.

The software acquired as a result of the procurement is a package called VRVWeb, a system developed initially for use in the USA. The core system has been customised to ensure that its functionality meets the requirements of the registration service in England and Wales.

Representations have been received mainly from staff in registration offices. As would be expected, those in districts where RON has not worked well have expressed disappointment and frustration at the problems experienced, whereas a number of staff where RON has performed at expected levels have commented very favourably on its qualities.

The RON system is currently being used by some 54% of Local Authorities. No precise estimate is currently being made of when it will be available to other authorities, all of which are able to continue to register births and deaths using pre-existing systems. The need to reintroduce RON in those districts in such a way as to ensure no detriment to current users means that the exercise must be very carefully planned and could take some months. Estimates of additional cost are currently being drawn up.