§ Mr. Alton
To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will place a copy of the report of the Registrar General of the application of the Births and Deaths Registration Act 1953 to the case of the Carlisle baby in the Library; and if he will make a statement.33W
§ Mr. Freeman
The Registrar General is a Crown appointee under section 1 of the Registration Service Act 1953. The Secretary of State has no responsibilities or powers as regards the day to day exercise by the Registrar General of her functions under the Act or under the Births and Deaths Registration Act 1953. The Registrar General's conduct may be the subject of review by the courts. The Registrar General does not make information public about individuals which has come to her knowledge through her duties under the Births and Deaths Registration Act which is not already in the public domain.
The background note provided by the Registrar General on the Carlisle baby case was to enable the Secretary of State to respond to parliamentary inquiries and it is not appropriate for this document to be placed in the Library. It may however be helpful if I set out the legal position with regard to registration procedures.
Section 2 of the Births and Deaths Registration Act 1953 places a duty, primarily on the parents of a child, to give information for birth registration. This information is required to be given within 42 days of the date of birth and failure to give it may result in the local registrar issuing a notice in writing requiring any person to attend to register who is qualified to carry out the registration under the legislation. If a parent, or the mother in the case of a child born outside marriage, continues to refuse to register then that person commits an offence under section 36(c) of the 1953 Act.
Before issuing a formal requisition and pursuing the registration the local registrar has to establish that a birth which is registrable under the 1953 Act has actually taken place. In normal circumstances this information will come via the health authority under the provision set out in section 124(7) of the National Health Service Act 1977. This enables the registrar to have access to notices of births received by a medical officer. However, these notices are required by statute only in respect of births of more than 28 weeks gestation. In the absence of such a notice, the registrar must satisfy himself from other information that a birth has occurred which is registrable under the 1953 Act before issuing a formal requisition.
After 12 months have elapsed the local registrar's immediate responsibilities come to an end and the Registrar General's authority for registration of a birth and also of a death is required under sections 7 and 21 of the 1953 Act. The Registrar General has no powers to require any informant to register a birth or death, and if application is made to her for late registration by a qualified informant she needs to be satisfied that a registrable live birth or death have occurred.