HC Deb 11 July 1950 vol 477 cc1274-304

9.53 p.m.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Health (Mr. Blenkinsop)

I beg to move, That paragraphs 5 (b) (iii) and 11 (b) of Part I of the Second Schedule to the Draft Census Order, 1950, a copy of which was laid before this House on 15th June, he approved. Perhaps it would be for the convenience of this House if, in considering this Motion, we were to have a rather wide discussion and to include the general subject matter of the Draft Order which comes up for consideration immediately afterwards.

Mr. Speaker

I think that the House would be willing to have a general discussion on this Motion. Of course, if it is so wished, I could call the Motion in the name of the hon. Member for Westbury (Mr. R. V. Grimston) for a Division.

[That the Draft Order in Council entitled the Census Order, 1950, a copy of which was laid before this House on 15th June, be not submitted to His Majesty.]

Mr. R. V. Grimston (Westbury)

That arrangement would be agreeable to us and I think it would be for the convenience of the House. I take it that under the arrangement, it would be possible for the Parliamentary Secretary to reply to the Debate in addition to making an opening speech.

Mr. Speaker

That is all right under our rules.

Mr. Blenkinsop

I think it is understood that in accordance with the Census Act of 1920, a Draft Order in Council was laid before Parliament on 15th June. It contained proposals for three main categories of information: first, for the date when the census is to be taken; second, for the persons by whom and in respect of whom the returns are to be made; and, third, for the particulars to be stated in the returns themselves.

This Draft Order is the subject of this Prayer this evening, but, in so far as the scope of the particulars asked for extend beyond the matters which are specifically referred to in the first five items of the Schedule to the 1920 Act, it is required that an affirmative resolution should be moved in the House to give authority for these particulars to be asked for. As I think it will be agreed in all parts of the House, there has been an unusual gap since the last census was taken in this country, now 20 years ago, and because of the length of the period, and also because of the importance of accurate information for the development of our general social services, it is clearly more urgent than ever that we should have up-to-date and accurate information to help us to judge the general population trends.

The proposed list of inquiries, which is somewhat larger than in 1931, but not much larger, has been decided only after considerable discussion between the various Departments affected, and all the questions are confined to simple matters within the knowledge of any person in the country. I would agree with any hon. Member who said that, in a matter of this sort, it is of the greatest importance to get the willing co-operation of the general public, and we are more likely to get that willing co-operation if the questions are short and simple than if they are long and complicated.

At the same time, it is desirable that we should secure by this means the information that we are all agreed is essential if we are to have a proper backing for future estimates for our social service work. In fact, the form of return which the householder will be asked to complete will be only very slightly larger than that used in 1911, or, indeed, that of 1931.

With regard to the general question of the confidentiality of the return, which is a matter of great importance, all answers given are covered by the general protection afforded to census information, which is treated as strictly confidential throughout; as I think hon. Members will know, all concerned with the census may incur substantial penalties for any abuse of the information. That is set out, indeed, in Section 8 (2) of the 1920 Act.

It would be of interest if I were to say a few words particularly about two questions which we are asking in this census and which require the affirmative procedure; that is to say, questions not covered by the specific items mentioned in the Schedule to the Census Act, 1920. In item 6 of that Schedule, it is laid down that particulars may be required in respect of: 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. It is under that provision that we are asking two particular questions which require the affirmative resolution of the House tonight. These questions which we are asking will be found printed in italics in the Draft Order laid before the House.

The first of these inquiries is in respect of each married woman under the age of 50, and the question asks, if married more than once, what is the month and year of her first marriage. Marriage and birth particulars were asked for in the census of 1911, but not in the census of 1921 or that of 1931. In fact, it has been customary to vary the particulars asked for in different census returns. I understand that it was assumed in 1931 that these particulars would be asked for again in 1936, but in fact, the contemplated census of 1936 never took place. This particular question which I have mentioned—the inquiry as to the date of the first marriage—is regarded today as an essential part of the inquiry concerning general birth trends.

In recent years, as will be well understood, there have probably been an exceptional number of re-marriages following divorce and also, of course, following widowhood. It is vital, in these circumstances, to find out the number of children born from the time the woman was first married and the total number of children born of her marriage, or marriages. It would obviously be rather illogical merely to have the number of children born of her last marriage. We want to relate the total births to the whole married life, and there is no doubt that that would be not only of great value, but almost essential for any proper estimation of birth trends in the country.

I should point out that we are not asking some questions which might, indeed, be rather difficult or embarrassing for people to answer. For example, we are not asking how many times anyone has been married. We are not asking for particulars about illegitimate children, or anything of that kind which, I am sure, would be regarded by this House as being of an embarrassing nature and difficult to ask the public to give. All the questions on the census paper are very simple and direct questions which will provide the essential information, and, at the same time, will not cause any difficulty to those who have to answer them.

There is one further question which requires the affirmative resolution of the House, and that deals with education. The question asked is, in respect of every person following or seeking to follow an occupation for payment or profit and who is not retired, the age at which full time education in an educational establishment finally ceased. One of the questions about education is repeated from the 1921 census, and the other question about education is addressed to those who are attending schools or other educational establishments and asks whether they are so occupied full-time or part-time. The new question is concerned only with the date at which full time education ceased, and, as I have said, no provision is made for any question of this character within the Schedule to the 1920 Census Act, apart from the general provision of paragraph 6 of that Schedule.

The reason for the inclusion of this question is that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Education requires this information to help him to determine what types of education should be provided. The answers, together with those on occupation and age, would be used to discover what occupations are, in fact, followed, and at what ages, by those whose education ceases at various ages, and what position they hold in such occupations, for example, professional workers, managers, foremen, technicians, and others.

I understand that attempts have been made to obtain this, or similar information, from the schools, but it is incomplete and difficult to classify and, in any case, it is confined to what the pupils themselves express as their intentions. The question is also needed in order to throw some light on the demand for accommodation at technical colleges and other establishments for further education, including training colleges and universities, and to find out to what extent the demand is now being met.

I think that will make it clear that in this census we are not intending to overburden the general public with a mass of unnecessary or unreasonably inquisitive questions. All these are questions that have been asked before in other census returns, or have been included in the census requirements of other countries such as America. In relation to this general question of trying to ensure that the number of questions is kept down to a reasonable limit, I have here a copy of a recent American census return, which I should hesitate to suggest should be adopted as a copy for this country.

Lieut.-Colonel Elliot (Glasgow, Kelvin-grove)

Read it.

Mr. Blenkinsop

I do not want to take up the time of the House by reading out the whole particulars. It is obvious that other countries go into much fuller details than we do in these census returns. To get the fullest co-operation, we desire to keep the size of the return and the information asked for down to reasonable limits. In view of the length of time since the census was last taken, and the very important function that a census of this kind does perform, both in providing information to our main social service Departments and, indeed, in providing the most valuable material for social historians and others, I hope the House will agree to give this affirmative resolution their support.

In looking back through the records, I was interested to see that in the Debate that took place in the House on the Census Bill, in 1920, a cordial welcome was given to it by the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Glasgow, Kelvingrove (Lieut.-Colonel Elliot). At that time he insisted, very properly, upon the value of the information that would be provided by a census of this type, on medical and other grounds. I trust, therefore, that every effort will be made by hon. Members on both sides of the House to ensure the willing co-operation of the general public in this census, because there is no doubt that without that willing co-operation the value of the census itself will be very much reduced.

10.9 p.m.

Mr. R. V. Grimston (Westbury)

Perhaps I should explain that unless the Prayer that the Draft Census Order be not submitted to His Majesty had not been put down, it would not have been possible, under the Rules of the House, to discuss the whole question of the census which we are desirous of doing. I am sure we are obliged to you, Mr. Speaker, for allowing a broad discussion to take place on the affirmative resolution, in order that we may not have to divide the Debate into two parts.

At first sight, it does appear not unreasonable that, having regard to the fact that the last census took place in 1931, there should be another one now, 20 years later. In spite of that, I and some of my hon. Friends have some comments to make in connection with the holding of a census next year. In the first place, it is going to cost a good deal of money, and, in the second place, it will cause annoyance to a considerable number of people, particularly in these times when there is so much information being asked for by the Government in many directions. As the Parliamentary Secretary has said, if the census results are to be of any use it is necessary to get public co-operation, and I think therefore the public have got to be satisfied that holding a census next year is reasonably necessary.

To take first the question of cost, I understand that the cost of this census is to be in the region of £14 million. In passing, I might mention that the cost of the 1931 census was a matter of £400,000. It was considered worth while in order to save a smaller sum of money to do away with the six-monthly register of electors, and in considering whether this expense should be incurred next year it is well to bear that fact in mind, because the withholding of a six-monthly electoral register is a not unimportant matter. Is the census really so urgently required as to have it held next year?

There is another point which I want to put to the Parliamentary Secretary. Are not these questions seeking a great deal of information which is already in the possession of other Government departments and which could be extracted from information and statistics which other Government departments have, without having to come to the public for that information? Since 1931 we have seen the introduction of universal compulsory insurance which brings in a good deal of information to the Ministry of National Insurance. We have registration cards and ration books. We have had and still have the call-up. There is far more information in the hands of the Ministry of National Insurance, the Ministry of Labour and the Ministry of Food than in 1931 or at the time of any previous census.

What I want to know is: how far have the Government considered this before deciding to hold this census next year in order to add to the information? I think it would be helpful to illustrate the point if I went through some of the questions which I will do not seriatim but as they occur in the second schedule. The first one I should like to mention is the information which is being sought from married women. This is perhaps digressing slightly because it is not upon the point of information in the possession of other Government Departments, but it happens to come in this order and I will therefore take it now.

I did not quite follow all that the hon. Gentleman said about this matter concerning married women. It seems to me that if a woman has been married twice the complete information is available, but if she has been married more than twice there appears to be a gap. 1 am not suggesting that the questions should be made still more pressing, but I am wondering whether the question as it is so framed will give all the information that the hon. Gentleman thinks it does, and, that being the case, whether this question ought not to be reconsidered. Perhaps when he replies he will deal with that point.

The next point I would make concerns the question under heading No. 10 in the second schedule. It seems to me that some information is sought which is already in the possession of the Government. To take only one, as an illustration-10 (b, i)—whether out of work. The Ministry of Labour have all that information; they know the numbers out of work every month when they make up the figures. That seems to be an illustration of information being sought which is already in the possession of a Government Department. If hon. Members will look at Question 10 they will see other instances of the same thing.

With regard to Question 11, and particularly 11 (b), which the hon. Gentleman mentioned tonight, I do not see what the information will give him for what I would call future planning. All he will obtain from this is the position which people occupy having had, or not having had, various types of education. They might have reached their position for a number of causes, quite apart from the kind of education they had, and I do not see what use the Ministry of Education will make of the information supplied or that it is necessary to lengthen the form by inserting it.

Let us look at 12 (b), which seeks information about a piped water supply, a kitchen sink and so on. I will hazard a guess that the information is already pretty completely in the hands of the local authorities. I see that the Parliamentary Secretary disagrees with me, but most local authorities certainly have information about piped water supplies. That is another instance where I believe the hon. Gentleman could obtain information, if he took some trouble, without going to the public.

My hon. Friends will probably give further instances, but I think I have said enough to question whether the Government have given enough consideration to this, and whether a great deal of this information could not be obtained from Government Departments, who already have it in their possession, instead of through the census. It will certainly make for better co-operation from the public if they can be satisfied that the Government arc not in many directions asking for information which they already have if they like to look for it.

I turn now to the proviso in paragraph 3 about confidential returns. The wider these questions go, particularly in the case of the proposed questions to married women, then the more important it is to see that the arrangements for confidential returns are not only known but are well known and that it is easy for people to avail themselves of such arrangements. The proviso says: Provided that any person claiming in the prescribed manner to make a confidential return shall, subject to the prescribed conditions, be deemed to be the person by whom the return is to he made with respect of himself. When will these prescribed conditions be made known?

In this connection I have with me the regulations issued for the 1931 census. I am sorry to trouble the House, but I must read the relevant paragraph. It says: For the purpose of the proviso to Article 3 of the Order, a person shall be deemed to be the person by whom the return is to be made with respect to himself notwithstanding that he is not a person mentioned in the second column of the first Schedule to the Order if he is of full age and is a person mentioned in paragraph 1 or paragraph 2 of the first column of the Schedule. In the first column of the First Schedule, which is the same in this Order as it appeared in the 1931 draft Census Order, the persons referred to in paragraph 1 and paragraph 2 are persons present at midnight in the dwelling where the return is to be made by the head of the household, and the persons present on the premises of any hotel where the return is to be made by the manager or other person. That seems, as far as I can see, to exclude anybody in the other categories—3, 4, 5, and so on—which include people who may be in hospitals or nursing homes, or on board ship, or people—and they are particularly mentioned—travelling to Ireland, and so on, from making, if they wish, confidential returns.

I want to know if it is proposed in the regulations which are coming out that that should again be the case, and whether the possibility of making confidential returns will be restricted to the persons in the first two paragraphs of the Schedule, or whether arrangements will be made, having regard particularly to the wider questions being asked, for people in some of those other categories—I do not say, necessarily, those in prison—but in some of the other categories to make confidential returns. Another question I want to ask in this connection is, If such a confidential return is made, will it go to the local enumerator, who may be the local postmaster, or someone known locally, or does it go to headquarters, so that there is no question of the information, which a person wishes to keep confidential, becoming known locally?

I should be very glad if the hon. Gentleman could, in due course, reply to some of these points. I would end, as I began, by asking specifically if the Government really have gone into the question as to how far the information which they are asking for here is not already at their disposal, because if it is, I believe that, so far from getting the necessary cooperation over the census, the Government will not get co-operation, and if they do not, the value of the census will be largely destroyed.

10.23 p.m.

Mr. John Hay (Henley)

I admit at the outset that I am not against the principle of taking a census in this country, but I feel that this is a very inopportune time for a census to be taken. I want to elaborate to the Parliamentary Secretary some of the reasons why I think this is an inopportune moment, and why I hope the Government will think again about this matter. My hon. Friend the Member for Westbury (Mr. R. V. Grimston) has explained to the House some of the points of view which we hold on this side; and, perhaps, I may be allowed to elaborate them.

There are two main reasons why I think this census ought not to be taken now. The first is that I have not heard, despite the persuasive speech of the Parliamentary Secretary, any adequate reason why the census is necessary at this particular time; and I certainly have not heard any clear explanation of exactly what use is to be made of the information obtained by this census. I think we acknowledge on both sides of the House—we hold differing views as to the wisdom of it—that the Government's powers in these days are very extensive indeed. They are very often for the purpose of obtaining all manner of information. I do not think it would be putting it too high—it would not be overstating the case—to say the British public today is regimented and documented far more than any other people in the world, except, possibly, those behind the Iron Curtain; because in this country we have a system of compulsory registration for all sorts of information which, I should have thought, was easily available to the Government.

My hon. Friend has mentioned one source of information open to the Government if they want statistics. He reminded the House of the national registration which is still in being, despite the rather contradictory remarks of the Minister of Health and of the Home Secretary. Apparently the National Register is still to go on for some time yet. There is also the registrar of births, marriages and deaths, who, I should imagine, has a tremendous amount of statistical information about fertility and population trends,—and this, we are told, is the main reason for this census—which could be given to the Ministry of Health if they want it. Again, there is the Registry of Divorces, which has information easily obtainable by Government Departments. The Ministry of Labour could, I imagine, from the resources and files at their disposal, give a mass of information about employment and the nature of different types of occupation in which people engage in this country.

So far as certain of the questions dealing with housing in the Second Schedule are concerned, I should have thought that the hon. Gentleman's own Ministry, and certainly local authorities over which he holds sway, would have had much of the information demanded in, for example, question No. 12, where a person is required to state the number of living rooms in which he dwells, and also whether the household has exclusive or shared use of a piped water supply…a kitchen sink, a cooking stove or range, a watercloset and a fixed bath. I should think that local authorities, who, up to now, have been the valuation and rating authorities, should know where houses have all these different amenities about which information is required by this census.

I turn for a moment to another aspect of the position. For some time there has been in this country an organisation directly under the control of the Cabinet called the Central Statistical Office. I see from the Civil Estimates for 1950-51 that the Central Statistical Office employs no fewer than 17 people, officers of various grades and categories, whose total salary bill for the current year will be £18,157. I should like the Parliamentary Secretary to tell us, when he replies, what these people have been doing. Have they been earning their salaries? If there is a Central Statistical Office costing the country £18,000 a year, they should be collecting and drawing together all the sorts of information that I should imagine this census is intended to obtain.

My hon. Friend mentioned a number of the questions, and pointed out that in his view some people might object to answering the questions in the form in which they are posed. I would say that some of these questions are downright impertinent, and I can imagine a great many people having very rooted objections to answering questions of the nature put forward.

Mr. Blenkinsop indicated dissent.

Mr. Hay

Perhaps the Parliamentary Secretary takes a different view, but I say that people will object very strongly to being asked, for example, whether they were more fertile after their second marriage. That is the sort of question which is being asked in this document.

Mr. Blenkinsop

Will the hon. Gentleman read out the question which asks for that information in those words?

Mr. Hay

The Parliamentary Secretary is quite right in that it does not ask for it in those words, but that is obviously what is intended, and that was what I understood him to say when he was opening the Debate. If I have misrepresented the position I at once withdraw, but that was the impression I got.

Mr. Blenkinsop

The hon. Gentleman said that he regards some of these questions as downright impertinent. I think those were his words.

Mr. Hay


Mr. Blenkinsop

He will realise that the actual wording of the questions is a matter of very great importance, for we do want the co-operation of the general public. I therefore ask him again to give us specific instances of questions which he thinks to be impertinent.

Mr. Hay

As I have explained to the House, in my view some of these questions are impertinent, not so much possibly in the form in which they are asked, but because of the sort of information they are directed to obtain, and also the sort of use which will be made of that information.

Mr. Blenkinsop

Which questions?

Mr. Hay

In particular, the questions I had in mind were those relating to marriage.

Mr. Blenkinsop

Yes, but which ones?

Mr. Hay

I want to pass, if I may, to another subject which, in my personal view—

Mr. Blenkinsop

Which questions?

Mr. Hay

If the hon. Gentleman presses me, I would refer him to question No. 5, and, in particular, to No. 5 (b, iii), which he wants the House to give him affirmative power to put; and also question No. 6. This relates to information which many people, possibly of a more retiring nature than the hon. Gentleman himself, might think it rather impertinent to ask.

Mr. Blenkinsop

But why?

Mr. Hay

I have done my best to explain to the hon. Gentleman. If he dis- agrees with me perhaps he will put his point of view when he replies.

Mr. John Hynd (Sheffield, Attercliffe)

Does the hon. Gentleman realise that the suggestion he is making about this kind of question—that the information it extracts will be put to some nefarious purpose—will be extremely alarming in the country? He really ought to be more careful of the words he uses in making that kind of suggestion, because it will be broadcast.

Mr. Hay

That is precisely the point I asked the Parliamentary Secretary. We have not been told yet what use is to be made of this information. If we had that on which to base our speeches, then possibly none of the disturbance which has agitated the hon. Member for Attercliffe (Mr. J. B. Hynd) would arise.

I want to pass to the next point which, in my view, is even more important, namely, the question of cost. My right hon. Friend referred to what I believe is the estimate of the Minister. It is going to cost £1,250,000—that is, over three times what it cost in 1931? It is estimated that the central clerical staff is to be about 600—the hon. Gentleman will correct me if I am wrong—and that 50,000 enumerators are to be employed. These figures are based on information given to the Press some time ago. Where are these people to come from? In these days of full employment, where are we to find 50,000 enumerators? This is a waste of taxpayers' money.

I think the census should be postponed. In the Civil Estimates for this year the Minister asked for £10,800 for a census in England and Wales and Scotland and now he wants a great deal more. Later I expect we shall have a Supplementary Estimate. Hon. Members opposite have chided us for not telling them what extravagant and wasteful expenditure we should cut. Here is an example. I urge the Government to postpone this grand snoop until a little later when the taxpayer is better able to afford it.

10.32 p.m.

Mr. Emrys Roberts (Merioneth)

On the whole I think there is a case for a census at the present time and hon. Members do a disservice when they suggest that the information could be used for a wrongful purpose or that the census is in the nature of a snoop.

A census has been authorised by this House since 1920. It has been suggested that the information required by the census might be obtained from Government Departments or local authorites, but I feel that such methods might be even more costly and troublesome than getting it from the people themselves. It is always much easier for those with personal knowledge to give that information. It is far easier for a person to say what kind of accommodation and amenities he has in his house than for some local authority to say so.

I do not want to deal with the general question this evening. I want to refer to paragraph 4 of this Draft Order, which says that The returns shall state— (c)in the case of all persons with respect to whom returns are to be made in Wales (including Monmouth), the additional particulars specified in Part III of that schedule. Part III of the Schedule gives Additional particulars to be stated in returns made in Wales (including Monmouth) 1. In respect of persons aged 3 years or over, whether speaking Welsh only or able to speak both Welsh and English. If I may have the attention of the Minister for a moment, the point I wish to make is this: if we are to try to find out whether a person's sole language is Welsh, we must obviously ask that question in the Welsh language. It is no use putting a question in English before him, asking him if he speaks Welsh only. That being so, I want to obtain an assurance from the Parliamentary Secretary that these questionnaires will be available in Wales in the Welsh language.

After all, there are, particularly in my constituency and in Caernarvon-shire, several thousands of Welshmen, who for earlier census have had special forms prepared for them. There are Welshmen whose knowledge of English is imperfect, and who would prefer, for the sake of accuracy, to fill up the questionnaire in Welsh. Furthermore, it is the right of every Welshman, if he so desires, to answer the, questions in Welsh rather than in English, even though he might well be able to do it in English. For these reasons I will support this Order if I can obtain the assurance for which I ask. Failing that, I shall not be able to give it my support.

10.36 p.m.

Mr. Parker (Dagenham)

I should like to support this Order. I was rather surprised to hear the speech of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Henley (Mr. Hay). We have had censuses in this country since 1801, and no doubt exactly the same arguments were used in this House at the time of the first census in 1801 as we have heard here to-night.

Mr. Hay

But the hon. Gentleman omits to state that in 1801 we did not have taxation at the rate of 40 per cent. of the national income.

Mr. Parker

Nevertheless, I am certain that the census of that day cost a considerable amount of money and probably cost a similar proportion of the total expenditure of the nation at that particular date.

It is 20 years since last we had a census because of the war, and there is much information which we want to check and bring up to date, especially that information which is collected year by year by Government Departments and the Registrar-General. There is need for a comprehensive check from time to time, and as there has been 20 years instead of the usual 10 between the censuses it is high time we had one in order to provide a thoroughly comprehensive check of our statistics. The hon. Gentleman said that some of the information being sought was impertinent. What is impertinent in finding out about marriage and fertility in this country? We are asked from time to time to consider new social legislation, such as family allowances to increase the birth rate, but unless it is based on accurate information sensible legislation cannot possibly be introduced. To have accurate information of that kind it is desirable to have it collected in a census if it can be done.

I had the pleasure of working for some years for the Merseyside Social Survey run by the University of Liverpool. We collected a sample survey of information on Merseyside and district from one in every 30 houses. We collected this information voluntarily. We got a 93 per cent. return, and that information was collected by school attendance officers. Many of the questions we asked would be considered impertinent by the hon. Member opposite. One was how many dead children the woman had had; but they did not object to answering that question. It was an important one, if we were to find out the total size of families and what the death rate among children was, and it was also important when related to the age of the woman answering the question.

Mr. Hay

Were the answers compulsorily obtained? [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] That is the point.

Mr. Parker

The answers were voluntarily collected. It was a delicate question, yet we found that it was a reasonable question which, when it was explained to the people, they did not object to answering. I am certain that the people will not object to answering these questions, if the Press adopts a constructive line and explains to the people why we are seeking information at the census.

We had at the beginning of the century a comprehensive survey carried out in London originally by Dr. Charles Booth, which lasted more than 17 years. This survey collected information on the incomes of the poorest people. Only thanks to that information were we able to have satisfactory legislation to introduce old age pensions. That was information gained by asking some very awkward questions. When we are considering reform of the census we need to think of the social problems with which we may have to deal, so that in the census we may ask questions which will give information that will be useful in dealing with those problems. I welcome therefore the fact that we are asking for information which will be useful in dealing with problems such as housing.

I would like to support the hon. Member for Merioneth (Mr. Emrys Roberts) in regard to information about the speaking of the Welsh language. I suggest that we ought also to ask about the speaking of Welsh in the County of Shropshire. There is quite a bit of Welsh spoken there around Oswestry and it would be useful to have information about its extent.

I am not at the moment making any suggestion for altering the border of England and Wales, but I remember an occasion when it was suggested that the City of Chester should absorb a certain new housing estate which was in the county of Flint. All hon. Members representing Welsh constituencies strongly objected and the Bill was thrown out. The main argument advanced by the Minister of Health, who was not then holding that position, in opposition to the Bill was that it would mean the stealing of a piece of Wales. But I do suggest that it would be useful to have that information in regard to Shropshire, and possibly in regard to other border counties, so that constructive suggestions about the border could be put up if required.

This Order refers to Great Britain, and I would like to ask whether it applies only to the United Kingdom. What happens, for instance, in places like the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands? Who makes the Orders for a census in those areas? If this Order applies to these places, 1 would like to suggest that information should be collected in those islands about how far French and Manx respectively is spoken. I hope the House will support the Order.

10.43 p.m.

Captain Duncan (South Angus)

The hon. Member who has just spoken referred to surveys made by various bodies. What he did not quite make clear, until he was question upon it, was that they were all voluntary censuses. This census is compulsory. There is provision for a fine for filling in the form wrongly, or for not filling it in, of up to £10, which makes this quite a different matter from a voluntary survey.

There are certain questions which I wish to ask the Parliamentary Secretary, if he will be good enough to listen, because I am not at all convinced that this census is necessary at present. Is it not possible to obtain the names, sex, ages and residences, of everyone in this country from the National Register? Taking these questions haphazardly, I would refer to question No. 6 (a) in the Second Schedule. That deals with children born in marriage. What is a child born in marriage? Does the term include an illegitimate child whose parents legitimise that child subsequently by marriage? There is no mention of this on the form. It may include an illegitimate child, or it may exclude such a child, for all I know.

Then there is question No. 6 (b) of the Second Schedule. That asks whether a married woman under the age of 50 has given birth to a child since the 9th April, 1950, but surely the information can be easily obtained from the registrars of births, deaths and marriages throughout the country. With regard to question No. 2—the relation to head of family or other person by whom the return is to be made? What is the use of that phrase? I can quite understand if the object of the question is to obtain a picture of the size of families, but that is not the way in which this question is phrased. We may have the case of a single person living with a housekeeper; what is the use of that information then? I would like to refer to question No. 8; why do we want this information about where people were born—whether it was in Britain, or Norway, or somewhere else? What use is the Government going to make of that? If no use is being made of it, then why include it in the census?

There were some questions left out of the 1911 and 1921 censuses which are now included, but I see no reason why they should not be left out of this one without any difficulty arising, unless the Government are going to make use of the information when they have it. Question No. 10, concerns employment—what profession, trade, manufacture, or other occupation, one is in. Surely this is all in the hands of the Ministry of Labour. If not, then it must be with the Ministry of National Insurance because we are all insured as employers or employees in one form or another. Then we come to question No. 11. I should have thought that the education authorities know all that should be known about part-time or full-time attendance in an educational establishment. So far as question No. 12 is concerned, as has already been mentioned twice, surely that information, despite the Parliamentary Secretary shaking his head, must be in the hands of every local housing authority which is worth its salt. I am certain it is in the hands of my local authorities. Then there is this information about a piped water supply, and so on. My local authorities have all this information.

Now one question about the general regulations. Is it clear—if it is not I hope it will be made so—that the enumerator, in dealing with the number of rooms in the house, has no right to enter the house to count the rooms? He has the rights to make certain inquiries to check the figure in the Schedule, but I am one of those people who still believe that an Englishman's and a Scotsman's house is his castle in spite of all the thousands of snoopers allowed to enter private property today without notice.

Mr. Emrys Roberts

What about a Welshman?

Captain Duncan

This is one of the occasions when we should stand up for the right of the private person to keep his home inviolate. I want to be assured that the enumerator has no right to enter the home. Paragraph 3 deals with the confidential returns, and I remind the House that the arrangements made for the 1931 census covered only the first two classes, as explained by my hon. Friend the Member for Westbury (Mr. R. V. Grimston), that is to say, those living in private households and in hotels, boarding houses, and so on. They were allowed confidential returns but not those in nursing homes, hospitals, ships, and so on. They were apparently not allowed confidential returns.

I would like to reinforce what my hon. Friend the Member for Westbury said in asking that there should be an extension of that confidential return to other categories named in the First Schedule. There is another point on this confidential return. The arrangements made at the last census, as I understand it, were that when a person asked to make a confidential return he was given a slip of paper in addition to the schedule. He was told to fill up the particulars on the slip and put that, with the schedule, in an envelope. That was handed to the local enumerator when be came back to collect the information. Then the local enumerator's job was to open the envelope and copy the particulars on to the schedule. In other words, it was only confidential in so far as the head of the household was concerned, or the hotel-keeper or boarding-house-keeper, but it was not confidential to the local enumerator.

We have progressed, we hope, since 1920, when the Act was first passed. We are more civilised, more intelligent, and better educated. At least, hon. Gentlemen opposite always pride themselves on the progress this country has made. It should be possible, therefore, to make arrange- ments that that envelope should be posted to headquarters, wherever it may be—London, or Edinburgh, or Belfast—so that the envelope should be not only confidential as from the head of the household or the hotel-keeper, but also from the local enumerator as well.

I agree there are penalties for disclosure of particulars by the local enumerator. At the same time everybody living in the country knows that although the information is not given away, there is an uneasy feeling, particularly in cases where the confidential slip has been asked for, of disquiet and anxiety that skeletons in the cupboard will be known to men's and women's neighbours. I think special arrangements in this year of grace 1950 should be made so that the envelope should not be opened by the local enumerator but should be sent direct to headquarters, so that the envelope may be one of thousands and that the headquarters could open it and fill in the schedule themselves.

Those are the questions I want to ask and I now want to make some general comments. The first comment, which has already been made, is that this is a costly experiment at this time. It is costing £1,250,000 and the time—

Mr. Blenkinsop

Does the hon. and gallant Member call this an experiment? It has been going on since 1801.

Captain Duncan

I quite agree. If the hon. Gentleman does not like the word "experiment," I will say that it is a costly item of the national expenditure. In view of all the queries I have asked about the need for this expenditure and in view of the other methods of obtaining the information, I ask the hon. Gentleman whether it is, in his opinion, really necessary to ask all these questions in 1951? The second point I would like to make is: Why not postpone the census now and have a review of the 1920 Act to see what information can be left out and see what is really necessary for the Government's purpose.

Mrs. Eirene White (Flint, East)

The census is a scientific process. The hon. and gallant Gentleman has mentioned postponing the census, and another hon. Gentleman has also mentioned postponing it. Will he let us know what is the scientifically desirable year to which they would have it postponed instead of 1951?

Captain Duncan

As a census was postponed in 1941, I do not think really we can labour this scientific point very much. After all, the Registrar-General appears to be perfectly able to forecast, at any rate, to detail, particulars of people in this country with extraordinary accuracy in spite of not having had a census since 1931.

I do not believe that if you ask people to answer a whole lot of questions now you will necessarily get a very accurate or scientific return. In 1920 when the Act was passed there were practically no forms to fill in and conditions were completely different. In 1931 there were no forms to fill in. The country is fed up with tilling up forms and people want to avoid, if possible, the filling up of another set of forms if they can help it.

I do not believe that you will get that complete co-operation that the Parliamentary Secretary asks for. In any case you will not catch people like deserters and black marketeers and other avoiding National Registration any more than you have been able to catch them under the National Registration procedure. The Registrar-General has been quite capable of counting the population fairly accurately in the last few years, from year to year and local authorities are able to supply fairly accurately any information which Government Departments have not already.

11.1 p.m.

Mr. Douglas Houghton (Sowerby)

As the hour is late and I wish to try to be brief I will not labour the point about the need for having another census very soon. There are many reasons why we should and there are also many reasons why the cenus should be held in 1951. It will be 20 years since the last one and it will give us a statistical rhythm if the next census is held 20 years after the last.

I think hon. Members will remember that the Royal Commission on Population was sadly handicapped in its labours owing to the lack of much of the information which will be asked for in this census and that it had to embark upon a very elaborate process of getting information voluntarily, over a smaller area than the whole nation, upon which to base its conclusions. I am sure all students of social affairs will agree that the information about family life and the basis for forecasting social and educational and housing needs is becoming very pressing now.

I rose chiefly to put forward three suggestions to my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary. First, I think it is very desirable to avoid asking for too much in the census form; I think it is possible and I hope—though I may be wrong—that the public response to the next census may be greater than to the last. Since then we have passed through a period of much form-filling and, whatever the reasons—and I make no comment or complaint about that at this moment—I merely say that it is possible that there may be some public resistance to a census which asks for more information than the public think is necessary. I therefore urge my hon. Friend to keep down, so far as possible. the number of questions asked. We all know that when Government Departments ask for information, they almost invariably ask for too much and it is very necessary that some curb should be put on this statistical information which may well find its way into the census form. That being so I say, keep down the amount of information needed.

Second, I think it is desirable to explain to the public why this information is being sought and the reasons for the questions—and to explain, also, some of the purposes to which the information will be put. That, I think, will help to secure their co-operation; and I think that in doing so it may be necessary to explain why it is we want to know the month as well as the year of the woman's marriage. I confess at the moment I do not appreciate why it is desirable to know the month as well as the year, for the purpose of ascertaining the fertility of a married woman throughout the whole course of her married life, where she has been married more than once.

Further. I do underline the question asked by the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for South Angus (Captain Duncan) who asked why it was necessary to know the parish as well as the county. To what purpose is that information to be put? Again, what is the point of asking an employee to state the name and business of his employer, or, if out of work or retired, the name of his last employer?

I hope some regard will be paid to this aspect of the census because success does demand full co-operation from the public. I suggest that in a nation-wide form-filling operation it is desirable to take a pilot survey; first of all to try the form out—to "try it on the dog" so to speak —to discover any difficulties of approach or in the wording of questions, which may later lead to a good deal of misunderstanding and information improperly given. I think a pilot census over a limited field is a very desirable prelude to undertaking this on a nation-wide scale. As one with some knowledge of trying to explain form-filling to the public, I hope that these suggestions will be considered.

11.3 p.m.

Mr. Garner-Evans (Denbigh)

The speech to which we have listened has been one of the most instructive in this House tonight. I only wish to make two small points. The first is in regard to the proviso to paragraph 3 of the order. The person who is to fill in this form will be the head of the household. People are, on the whole, quite prepared to give all the information at their disposal to the Government for the sake of the nation, but the head of a household may be a nasty snooper. Often people share a house but they are not willing to share their secrets about age. marriage, and other little details. I want to make the simple appeal that when the Government come to put this provision into practice they should give every opportunity to ordinary people to have a little secrecy, and that the form is not sent to the head of the household for completion in respect of all the occupants. I do beg the Government to see that people maintain that decent privacy which is our heritage.

There is a smaller point on Part III. I agree with the hon. Member for Merioneth (Mr. Emrys Roberts), who asked that this be printed in Welsh. If we are to have the census in Wales we must have the form in the Welsh language. How can you expect answers to questions about piped water or water closets unless they are put in the native tongue?

I ask that this point should not be confined to Wales and Monmouthshire. I want to know how many Welsh-speaking people there are living in England—how many of us have been driven from our homes. Why should we not find out how many Welsh people are living in Hammersmith, or in Glasgow? I ask the Government to make Part III general, so that we can find out how many Welsh-speaking men and women there are in the British Isles. Then when the time comes for building up better understanding and better culture, we shall have the facts.

11.6 p.m.

Mr. John Edwards (Brighouse and Spenborough)

While I would not presume to follow the hon. Member in his quest for knowledge about the number of Welshmen in England, I am in full accord with the sentiments he expressed that we should discuss things of this kind on the basis of fact and not of conjecture. The difference that has shown itself in two of the speeches we have heard from the other side is wholly to be deplored. One hon. Gentleman said that we are more civilized, more intelligent and better educated today. That view is not in accord with the obscurantist arguments that have been advanced against holding a census at all. If it is said that it is not opportune now, when we have not had a census for nearly 20 years, it is difficult to see when there should be a census.

Anyone who has had anything to do with any research in the last five or six years cannot deny that the research worker is up against the fact that we have not had a census since 1931. The amount of money that has been spent because we have not had a census is probably greater than the cost of the census itself. The Department with which I was once associated—the Ministry of Health—is a case in point. We have already had the instance of the Royal Commission on Population. Every private research organization has been under the great disadvantage of spending a large amount of time and money. Look at any of the learned journals—those of the medical profession, for example—and you will find people spending much money and man-power time to get information which would have been there if we had an up-to-date census. Hon. Members opposite are not serving any useful purpose, and may, in fact, increase resistance, if they throw doubts on the "worth-whileness" of the census.

Many people in the community—it is not merely Government Departments, but local authorities, and so on—need this up-to-date, accurate information, and I certainly know from my own experience that the information which is to be asked for in the census is not available at the present time, or, if it is available, can be obtained only by an enormous amount of digging—and that digging means spending money. Government Departments, Royal Commissions, Departmental committees, private research bodies, are spending an enormous amount of money because we have not an up-to-date census.

I think some of the suggestions that have been made from both sides of the House should be taken into account, and in particular I would say that it is important that we should prepare the ground very carefully. In the case of the 1931 census we had what I thought—and I was very interested in it at the time—a very good amount of preparatory work done by the Government and by the B.B.C. I recollect that I myself took part in a broadcast discussion on an admirable pamphlet that was issued by the B.B.C. at the time about the census, and about the need for it.

However, I would ask that hon. Gentlemen opposite should not now, at this stage in our history, go back on the idea of considering things on the basis of fact. It is wholly in the public interest that controversy—political controversy—should be on the basis of fact. Until we have an up-to-date census we shall not have the kind of facts which will illuminate a number of our discussions, and I hope, therefore, the Order will go through, although I am sure my hon. Friend will take into account the very many constructive suggestions that have been made during the Debate.

11.12 p.m.

Mr. Summers (Aylesbury)

Those who have preceded me have made a good many of the points that I should otherwise have made. Therefore, I do not propose to detain the House for many minutes. I should like to refer, first of all, to the items of lesser importance, namely, one or two of the questions which it is sought to justify asking in the census. When my hon. Friend the Member for Henley (Mr. Hay) described some of the questions as downright impertinent some exception was taken on the other side. One of the questions he had in mind was that asking a married woman who has married twice what was the date of her first marriage. Now, the only reason, as I understand it, why such information is called for is, to compare the fertility of the first and second marriages.

I am bound to say that I look with the utmost suspicion on those who seek to gain information on that point, because it can be used only if certain results are obtained, for interfering with the marriage laws. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Hon. Gentlemen opposite seem surprised when I say that information about the fertility of first and second marriages can only be of value if it is to be used for some planning purpose. If it is not to be used for some planning purpose there is no point in asking for it, and if it is to be so used I look upon it as a highly suspicious prospect.

I turn now to the question of education. We were told, I think, by the Parliamentary Secretary that the reason why that question was necessary was connected with the Minister of Education, who wished to know, from the information so provided, the type of education which it was thought desirable to provide. Were he to ask those who are likely to go forth into the world what were their prospectus and ideas, I could understand it: but to ask people of 30, 40, 50 years of age when they last left school, and to use that information for some specific purpose —well, I find it very hard to understand what value it can have. Then there is another question which may, perhaps, be considered a little indelicate—whether people have the habit of using their fixed baths exclusively or share them with someone else. I do not know what the result will be, but no doubt it will be something interesting.

The main point I want to make is this: the hon. Member for Brighouse and Spenborough (Mr. John Edwards) took exception to some of the fears expressed on this side. The Parliamentary Secretary has only himself to blame if we on this side voice the doubts and misgivings which I am certain are in the minds of many members of the public as to the need for this census. If he had realised that the spending of £1,250,000 was an important thing, and that asking people a lot of questions needs real justification, if he had made it his business to anticipate some of the questions which the public are asking already, he would not have found so many doubts expressed on this side.

The Parliamentary Secretary asked for the co-operation of the public in this matter. If there is to be a census, I hope that the public will co-operate. When we are told that in challenging the wisdom of the Government we are deliberately sabotaging the co-operation of the public, I am not prepared to admit that on this or any other occasion. I hope, therefore, that before we conclude this discussion, we shall have a great deal more information and justification than the Parliamentary Secretary thought fit to impart to us in order to remove those misgivings which prevent the co-operation of the public.

11.17 p.m.

Mr. Blenkinsop

In replying to the discussion, I confess I am surprised at the tone of the speeches of many hon. Members opposite. I had imagined, perhaps naïvely, that the issue of whether or not a census was desirable had been argued and settled many years ago and that there was common agreement that it was essential in the widest sense for the work of the Government and for the information of the public that it should be possible to obtain the essential facts about ourselves as a nation. I find, from many of the speeches of hon. Members opposite, that they take an opposite line. Although they often say to us, "Why do you not give us the facts?", when we set about ensuring that the facts shall be made available, they seem to challenge the propriety of asking the necessary questions.

The real issue is that it has been agreed on all sides that we must have accurate information at regular intervals. I think it is a great pity that it was not possible, for obvious reasons, to carry out a census in 1941. As my hon. Friends behind me have pointed out, the lack of information that would have been provided by a census in 1941 has caused the greatest difficulty to the Royal Commission on Population and many other public and private bodies who, without this information, are simply unable to reach the conclusions they desire.

Many speakers have suggested that it is possible to obtain the information needed from other sources. The answer is that it is not. We have looked very carefully into this matter to see whether it would be practicable to avoid asking some of the questions, but it is either not possible to obtain the information at all in the form in which it is asked here, or it is impossible to relate it to the other information that is being obtained in the census. For example, it was suggested that we have information about those who are unemployed. The Ministry of Labour has, of course, information about those who register as unemployed. But that is not necessarily completely accurate information about the total unemployed, and the actual location of these people in the country. There may be some who did not register: we know that is a fact, but we want to relate that information to the other information provided for in the form.

I find that a great deal of the criticism has been directed not so much against the principle of the desirability of establishing the facts, and having the census taken periodically, but to the suggestion that in our present circumstances we ought to defer the census in view of the cost that is involved. I think my hon. Friends have adequately answered that point. If we did not indeed proceed with this census we might find that we were involved in much heavier total expenditure in trying to secure from other sources this necessary information for the variety of purposes required by the different Ministries. The cost of £1,250,000 would be spread over a long period —from three to four years—because it is not to be wholly expended actually in the census year, but will, naturally, be partly related to the work on the information obtained. It is, of course, valid to point out that this census has already been postponed over long, considering its value to the country as a whole.

A point was made by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Westbury (Mr. R. V. Grimston) about the additional question we are asking about the date of the first marriage. He asked whether this would be valuable in view of the fact that there is bound to be some gap between the dates of one marriage and another, and whether that would not invalidate the information collected. It is true that there is bound to be such a gap, but on examination it is agreed that, in spite of that fact, the information collected will be of the utmost value. Indeed, one could properly argue that there may be occasions in recent years owing to service abroad where a greater gap may be represented by the absence of a father than that between the close of one marriage and the beginning of another.

Mr. Summers

Before the hon. Gentleman leaves that point, can he say what is the object of asking this question only of women under 50 years of age?

Mr. Blenkinsop

As has been mentioned already, we are anxious to relate the number of children to the period of marriage, and that cannot be done unless we have the information about the first marriage.

Dr. Hill (Luton)

I appreciate that point, but I cannot understand why it is limited to those families in which, at the time of the census, the woman is under the age of 50.

Mr. Blenkinsop

That is a perfectly fair point. It is simply because there was a sample family census made by the Royal Commission on Population which did provide information on those over 50 years of age and there have been considerable changes since in the position relating to those under 50. Obviously, there was not so much stability among those under 50 as in those over 50.

Mr. T. G. D. Galbraith (Glasgow, Hill-head) rose

Mr. Blenkinsop

1 do not think I can give way now.

Mr. Galbraith

1 appreciate the hon. Gentleman's courtesy in giving way. The only question I wish to raise has to do with women who have married twice. The hon. Gentleman says he wants to know about this. Has it not occurred to him that some of these women may not want this known? Why should they be forced to give this information just to satisfy the curiosity of the Government? The hon. Gentleman and the Government, it seems to me, always come down on the side of the State. They do absolutely nothing to support the legitimate desires of the people.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Major Milner)

I thought the hon. Member wanted to ask one question. He has gone on rather long.

Mr. Blenkinsop

The hon. Member for Glasgow, Hillhead (Mr. T. Galbraith) is taking advantage of my having given way to make a speech. I think the point is fully covered by the fact that the Act under which we are working, the Census Act, 1920, gave power for a very wide series of questions to be asked. We are certainly keeping well within the confines of that Act. To attempt to import purely political prejudices into this subject, is, I think deplorable. I think most hon. Members do understand the importance and value of the information we are collecting, or propose to collect, in this census. It has no relation to any political issue whatever. I would have hoped that hon. Members opposite would have had the good sense to avoid raising these matters in this Debate.

Hon. Members opposite have asked about the confidential returns, which is a most important matter. We are arranging for a full review of the circumstances in which confidential returns can be made. and we will take into account suggestions which have been made as to whether or not the categories of persons permitted in the last census to make a confidential return should be extended. I think some valid points were made by hon. Members on both sides of the House about this matter. It is essential, it seems to me, that those returns should go to the local enumerator, as he must be in a position to check the information provided. The local enumerator has not power of entry as has been suggested. On the other hand, there is the obligation on the householder to give the information required. It is obviously essential that the enumerator should be able, in order to play his part. to check the information made available. If these confidential returns were merely sent to London it is probable that a good deal of the information would have to be sent back to the area for checking.

Another matter raised by some hon. Members was why questions were put down in the Schedule regarding the place of birth. This is simply because we are anxious to obtain further information about migration and movement of population in the country. One of the main values of the census returns is that that information should be made available. Although a great deal of information is collected today which was not available in previous years, it is still true that that information is not complete and is not fully reliable for the purposes for which we need it today.

It is, therefore, essential that we should have, at regular intervals, the opportunity to obtain a complete return of this nature that can be of value to the general public as well as to the Government. I would say, finally—although I should have thought that it needed no emphasis—that, in fact, none of this information is used in relation to any person or family. That is, I believe, perfectly well understood and known by the people. It is needed for general statistical purposes of the utmost importance, and I ask the House, once again, to give this Order its full support in the knowledge that, with the help of hon. Members, we can ensure that the census is fully available.

I fear that I have missed one question: 1 have just remembered that the hon. Member for Merioneth (Mr. Emrys Roberts) asked if we would provide for the form of return to be available in the Welsh language. We shall certainly do that wherever it is necessary or desirable.

Mr. Hay

Why is it that on this census we are to spend three times as much as in 1931? Will the hon. Gentleman give me an answer?

Mr. R. V. Grimston

We have had a very wide discussion on this Order and, in view of that, I do not propose to move the Motion standing in the name of myself and my hon. Friends.

Question put, and agreed to.

Resolved: That paragraphs 5 (b) (iii) and 11(b) of Part I of the Second Schedule to the Draft Census Order, 1950, a copy of which was laid before this House on 15th June, he approved

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