The Home Office is to press ahead with a plan to let companies use electronic identity cards and passports to access Criminal Records Bureau data.
The move follows a month-long pilot study with the Identity and Passport Service (IPS) that found more than 80% of the 160 volunteers were in favour of using the new identity documents.
A Home Office spokesman said, "CRB and IPS are working on a planned and phased approach to evolve the introduction of a Passport Validation Service/ID card service in line with their relative strategic objectives."
The spokesman said the Home Office is also working on a vetting and barring system that would list people who are not allowed to work with children or vulnerable adults. They would not necessarily need a criminal record to be listed, he said.
Criminal record checks are mandatory for people who work unsupervised with children or vulnerable adults. Some health care organisation may also require one of new recruits.
But there are anomalies. For example, parents who employ a nanny may not ask for a check however, if they hire the nanny through an agency, they can ask the agency to conduct the check on their behalf. Similarly, a taxi company can ask and get a CRB check on prospective and existing drivers.
The Passport Validation Service (PVS), which is run by the IPS, allows organisations to validate a UK passport as evidence of identity. PVS confirms whether the passport details match IPS records, and that the passport has not been reported lost or stolen. The joint venture will allow IPS and CRB to test the feasibility of using PVS as a forerunner of the National Identity Scheme, he said.
A Home Office statement said 96% of those surveyed said the passport-linked service is an improvement on current arrangements, and 87% said that the ID card-linked service would be even stronger. The time to answer some checks could drop to four days from four weeks, the Home Office said.
The trial tested two online services to speed up and toughen background checks on people who want to work with children and vulnerable adults. The first was a short-term process and used UK passports, while the second was a longer-term process that used ID cards under the National Identity Scheme.
Home Office minister Meg Hillier said, "By linking your details to your fingerprints, the National Identity Scheme will make it easier and quicker to prove identity as well as (protect) your personal details from fraudsters."
The trial follows the 2004 Bichard Report, which said there should be improvements to "the systems for checking identity" and that the government's proposals for ID cards "would go a long way to solving this problem".
CRB chief executive, Vince Gaskell, said, "The National Identity Scheme will help make the Criminal Record check even faster and more robust."
IPS chief executive, James Hall, said, "As we move forward with procurement and delivery of the scheme, we are also taking forward other joint ventures with organisations such as the Border and Immigration Agency and retailers."
The CRB/IPS trials took place between 25 May and 26 June 2007 in Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Liverpool, London, and Manchester, with volunteers mainly from organisations with extensive experience of the current procedures for Criminal Records checks. An independent company, FDS, carried out interviews with the volunteers and analysed the research.
The CRB has issued more than 13 million criminal records disclosures since it began operation in 2002, and is now issuing more checks than ever, faster than ever, the Home Office said.
The first ID cards for UK citizens will be issued in 2009, with large-scale volumes being issued by the Identity and Passport Service in 2010.