National Insurance Numbers

Work and Pensions written question – answered on 7th November 2001.

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Photo of David Heathcoat-Amory David Heathcoat-Amory Conservative, Wells

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many national insurance numbers have been issued; and what plans he has to review the procedures for issuing, cancelling and verifying NI numbers.

Photo of Malcolm Wicks Malcolm Wicks Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Work and Pensions

We regularly review data cleansing activities on the departmental central index (DCI) and are currently looking at issues relating to NINO security as a whole. This includes reviewing procedures and building on work already done to identify and further safeguard vulnerable accounts.

There are approximately 83 million national insurance numbers (NINOs) currently held on the DCI. Other than the 47 million NINOs used by UK residents over 16, this figure includes approximately 12.5 million child reference numbers for all children included on claims to child benefit, 13.5 million for people who are dead and whose numbers remain in order to allow surviving spouses to claim contributory benefit entitlement and 2 million for those in receipt of benefit abroad. The remaining estimated 8 million will include UK citizens who have migrated to other countries, short-term immigrants/ holiday workers and deceased persons where notification of death has not been received.

Duplicate NINOs are 'cancelled' or removed from the DCI as and when they are identified. The cancellation of NINOs, other than those discovered to be duplicates or unused, is not carried out as it is considered that the removal of 'inactive' records opens a gateway to identity fraud. The retention of a deceased person's NINO is necessary to protect the inheritable rights of a surviving spouse to ensure they are awarded the correct rate of retirement pension.

The procedure for issuing NINOs has been tightened through the enhanced NINO allocation process which was introduced nationally from April 2001. This aligns the process for the allocation of both benefit inspired and employment inspired NINOs and ensures consistency of approach is maintained throughout the country, thereby securing the adult registration gateway. All adult applicants for a NINO are interviewed by dedicated staff who have received specific specialist training. Information given by the applicant in support of their application is corroborated by expert staff who also scrutinise documentation provided using specialist equipment. A more stringent internal checking regime ensures that a NINO application is valid and that the applicant does not already have a NINO.

We are currently examining new initiatives that address the issues around NINO security and propose to do more in the future to improve the procedures for managing NINOs.

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