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National Insurance

House of Lords written question – answered on 20th July 2011.

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Photo of Lord Boswell of Aynho Lord Boswell of Aynho Conservative

To ask Her Majesty's Government what action they are taking to reduce the discrepancy between the total of national insurance numbers issued and the numbers of active workers or retired people registered in the system.

Photo of Lord Freud Lord Freud The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

There is no discrepancy relating to the number of national insurance numbers issued.

The latest available figures (Feb 2011) show a total of 83.36 million national insurance number (NINo) records on the department's Customer Information System (CIS). This includes NINos of people known to be living abroad and 19.63 million NINos relating to deceased persons.

There are legitimate reasons why the number of NINos is greater than the number of the adult population. For example, there are UK citizens living abroad in receipt of UK social security benefits.

In 2007 a full categorisation of the NINo stock was undertaken and the results at that time were as follows:

2007 NINo stock categorisation:

55.1 million Active accounts-ie those showing current or recent use of the NINo;16.8 million accounts relating to people who are now deceased; and4.9 million inactive accounts-ie those showing no recent activity (and which do not fall into the deceased person account category) such as people who have moved abroad.

The NINo stock increases every year due to NINos being allocated to young people reaching the age of 16 and individuals entering the UK from abroad who require a NINo for employment purposes

Once a NINo is allocated it needs to remain on the department's computer system. This is because the NINo provides a permanent numerical link between the individual and their national insurance contribution record, which determines entitlement to contributory benefits and state pension. The NINos of deceased individuals are retained on the system as a partner may make a claim for a contributory benefit, which is dependent on the contribution record of the deceased.

The retention of the NINo for deceased persons on our systems-clearly marked as such to DWP staff-also provides an important counterfraud measure in that it prevents fraudsters from hijacking these numbers.

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