Digital BMD certificates discussed in the House of Lords

By Jon Bauckham, 19 December 2014 - 11:17am

Baroness Scott has put forward an amendment to the Deregulation Bill, which – if approved – could see plans put in place to make English and Welsh civil registration records available digitally 

Births, marriages and deaths; civil registration certificates

The possibility of providing copies of civil registration certificates digitally has been discussed in the House of Lords.

Baroness Scott of Needham Market has put forward an amendment to the Deregulation Bill, highlighting the need to make birth, marriage and death certificates more accessible to genealogists.

Speaking to the Grand Committee on 18 November, the Liberal Democrat peer suggested changing the definition of the records the General Register Office (GRO) had to provide the public.

Instead of solely offering ‘full’ copies of certificates, Baroness Scott argued that providing electronic versions would be more efficient for both the GRO and researchers.

“The one group of people in this country who could really use this service much more extensively are those, like me, who are researching their family history,” she said.

“The success of programmes such as Who Do You Think You Are?, along with the relative ease of internet searching has led to an explosion of interest in genealogy. This will almost certainly increase this year as the result of the wonderful coverage of the centenary of World War I.”

Baroness Scott also told the Committee she believed that her amendment was “a genuine piece of deregulation” which would “save money and does not cost anything.”

Currently available at a cost of £9.25 each, the present system for ordering GRO certificates in England and Wales contrasts with that in Scotland, which allows users to access the information via ScotlandsPeople, as well as Northern Ireland, which introduced a similar system in April.

Researchers do also have the option of paying £10 to order the 'original' local register office records used to create the GRO material, but no authorities currently provide copies digitally.

Although Baroness Scott’s amendment was not accepted in its drafted form, Government spokesman Lord Wallace of Saltaire said that officials in the Home Office would be “happy to meet with her and discuss the issue further”.

Speaking to Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine, a representative from the Liberal Democrat Whips’ Office said that they “expected Government and cross-party support” for the amendment when it is debated in early 2015.

This article was amended on 19 December 2014 to reflect that fact that original civil registration records can be ordered through local register offices, as well as the copies held by the GRO
 

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