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Current position

It is a legal requirement to register the birth, including still-birth, of every child in England and Wales and the death of every person in England or Wales. The law also sets out what must be done with the records and registers once registration has taken place. The current legislation provides for a paper-based system and is based on legislation which has been in place since the nineteenth century.

Since 2009, the registers of births and deaths have been kept in both paper and electronic form.  

The Bill

The Registers of Births and Deaths Bill 2021-22 (the Bill) is a Private Member’s Bill. It was presented to Parliament by Saqib Bhatti (Conservative) on 21 June 2021. Second Reading is scheduled for 26 November 2021.

Explanatory Notes, prepared by the Home Office with the consent of Saqib Bhatti, state that the purpose of the Bill is to reform the way in which births and deaths are registered in England and Wales. The intention is to remove the duplication of processes by removing the requirement for paper registers and introducing an electronic register for the registration of births and deaths. The Explanatory Notes state that this would create “a more secure system for the maintenance of birth, still-birth and death registers”.

The Bill would enable the Minister to make regulations to provide that, where registration is effected otherwise than in hard copy:

  • a person’s duty to sign the register is instead a duty to comply with specified requirements; and
  • a person who complies with those requirements is to be treated as having signed the register at that time, and, where required, to have done so in the presence of the registrar.

The Bill states that the regulations might, among other things, provide for a person to sign something other than the register, and require a person to provide specified evidence of identity. These regulations would be subject to the affirmative resolution procedure, requiring the approval of both Houses of Parliament to become law.

The Bill’s main provisions extend and apply to England and Wales only.

Previous Private Member’s Bill

The Bill is substantially the same as a previous Private Member’s Bill with the same name (the previous Bill) which was presented by Andrew Mitchell (Conservative) in the 2019-21 session of Parliament. (There are some minor changes to Part 1 of the Schedule, “Minor and consequential amendments”). The previous Bill was debated at Second Reading and in Public Bill Committee stages, and had both Government and Opposition support, but failed to complete its passage through Parliament before the end of the session.

In debate on the previous Bill, Andrew Mitchell said it would pave the way for a move to online methods of registration. He also stated there would be significant savings for the taxpayer. Junior Home Office Minister, Kevin Foster, said that, even though an electronic register is already in place, the current legislation requires a paper record of every event to be kept, resulting in a duplication of effort for registrars. He stated this could be addressed only through primary legislation. Kevin Foster also confirmed that existing birth and death registers, dating back to 1837, would continue to be held in perpetuity.

Documents to download

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