HC Deb 24 April 1860 vol 158 cc91-3

Order for Second Reading read.


said, that no single improvement had been adopted in the mode of taking the census in England since 1801, and suggested that some of those which had been effected in the Irish census returns should be imported into those made for this country; especially that colums describing the size of the dwelling-houses and the relative amount of acreage under crops of different kinds should be included, with the view of obtaining particulars with respect to the size of dwellings as well as to agricultural statistics, &c. He did not wish to press the subject, but he suggested that it would be well to refer the Bill to a Select Committee, to consider these points and report upon them.


said, he would like to know whether it was intended to conduct the census on an uniform plan for the United Kingdom. One point which he wished to recommend was, that the plan adopted should be as much resembling the former one as possible, and then that it should be conducted on an uniform plan. He differed from the hon. Member who had just spoken, when he said that no varieties had been introduced since 1801. The census of religious worship was an important alteration; and he earnestly hoped this inquiry would be continued on the present occasion. He noticed that it was proposed to ask respecting the "religious profession" of every person, and the answer was to be given under a penalty. He objected strongly to an inquiry of this sort being made under a penalty. Many persons would object to answer, under a penalty. It would be remembered that at the last census a very painful revelation was made of the number of persons, no less than 5,000,000, who did not attend religious worship at all. He feared that amongst this class either no answer, or even indecorous answers might be given. Not a few of the answers would also be ambiguous. Amongst the Presbyterians there were many subdivisions; there were also sections among the Methodists. Many persons would also return themselves simply as Dissenters, and thus difficulties would arise. In the last census year the arrangements were as nearly satisfactory as could be attained; and if they had the same information as was obtained before, he thought it would be amply sufficient. He recommended that the words he had referred to should be omitted, and, above all, that there should be no penalty.


said, that he thought that those details would be better left to the Committee. However, he would answer the question with reference to taking a uniform census. On former occasions England and Scotland had both been included in one Bill, but since the last census a Registrar General had been appointed for Scotland, and it was thought right to give him the superintendence of the census of that country. A separate Bill would be introduced therefore for Scotland, but the forms of census would resemble each other. With regard to Ireland, the census there had always been taken by the constabulary; and, as it caused no additional expense, the information had always been much fuller. The same plan would be adopted on this occasion.

Bill read 2°, and committed for Monday next.