HC Deb 09 August 1920 vol 133 cc95-7

(1) Subject to the provisions of this Act, it shall be lawful for His Majesty by Order in Council from time to time to direct that a census shall be taken for Great Britain, or for any part of Great Britain, and any Order under this Section may prescribe—

  1. (a) the date on which the census is to be taken; and
  2. (b) the persons by whom and with respect to whom the returns for the purpose of the census are to be made; and
  3. (c) the particulars to be stated in the returns:

Provided that—

  1. (i) an Order shall not be made under this Section so as to require a census to be taken in any part of Great Britain in any year unless at the commencement of that year at least five years have elapsed since the commencement of the year in which a census was last taken in that part of Great Britain; and
  2. (ii) no particulars shall be required to be stated other than particulars with respect to such matters as are mentioned in the Schedule to this Act.

(2) Before any Order in Council is made under this Section, a draft thereof shall be laid before each House of Parliament for a period of not less than twenty days on which that House has sat, and, if either House before the expiration of that period presents an Address to His Majesty against the draft or any part thereof, no further proceedings shall be taken thereon, but without prejudice to the making of a new draft Order.

(3) Any Order in Council made under this Section may be revoked, amended or varied by a subsequent Order.

The MINISTER of HEALTH (Dr. Addison)

I beg to move, at the end of Sub-section (2), to add the words Provided that if by part of any such Order it is proposed to prescribe any particulars with respect to any of the matters mentioned in paragraph 8 of the Schedule to this Act, that part of the Order shall not have effect unless both Houses by resolution approve that part of the draft, or, if any modifications in that part are agreed to by both Houses, except as so modified. During the discussion on the Second Reading of this Bill various opinions were expressed by hon. Members with regard to this part of the Clause and to paragraph 8 of the Schedule, and I promised that I would consider very carefully whether it would be possible to introduce any words which would act as a safeguard so far as this Order in Council was concerned. The words I have proposed seem to me adequately to meet the case. The Amendment secures that if any particulars are asked for under paragraph 8 of the Schedule they shall receive the express approval of both Houses of Parliament before they are required. I think that fully meets the criticism advanced by hon. Members on the Second Reading.


I am very much obliged to the right hon. Gentleman for having met the objection which I raised on the Second Reading of this Bill. I understand that what will happen is this. Under paragraph 8 of the Schedule the words are Any other matters with respect to which it is desirable to obtain statistical information with a view to ascertaining the social or civil condition of the population. These words give wide power to the Government of the day to make inquiries from the people. It is therefore important that this House should limit very carefully the power of the Government in making inquiries. I am very much obliged to the right hon. Gentleman, but I should like to hear from him an explanation of this Amendment. I understand that he says that, supposing this or any subsequent Government wish to get any particulars under paragraph 8, namely, some new form of information, before they can do it, they would have to have a Resolution passed by both Houses of Parliament.


indicated assent.


Then there lies a safeguard. May I ask in what way that would be done? I am afraid I am not familiar with that form of procdure, and can the right hon. Gentleman tell me any other case where it has been done? Would we have an opportunity of discussing the resolution in this House, and would an opportunity also be given in the other House of discussing it before it became law? Should we be allowed to divide upon it and to move Amendments to it?


The procedure here is the same procedure as has been adopted in respect of certain Orders made under the Ministry of Health Act. The Minister in charge of the Department has to put down a Resolution for the House to approve of such Order, and that Order cannot be assented to until the House has passed that Resolution. There was a case last week where I happened to put down such a Resolution, but there there was no discussion. Where a discussion takes place, and where Amendments are moved and agreed to, then the Order is taken back and amended.

Amendment agreed to.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill."


Do we understand that it is the intention of the Government to have a census taken every five years, instead of every ten years, or whether, under this Bill, the Government are simply taking powers to take a census when necessary?


As far as this Government is concerned, I am glad to hear from my hon. Friend that he thinks it will be in power at the end of five years. This Bill does not express any intention, but it only gives the necessary power to take a census, and an Order would have to be made and approved by the House if for any reason any local authority thinks it desirable to have a local census. There is no intention to have a census at the end of five years; the Bill only gives the necessary power to the local authority.