HL Deb 01 June 1960 vol 224 cc196-225

3.7 p.m.

VISCOUNT HAILSHAM rose to move, That Articles 6 (a) (i) to (iii) and 10 (c) of Part I, articles 2, 3 and 4 of Part II and Article 3 of Part III of the Second Schedule to the draft of the Order in Council, entitled the Census Order, 1960, be approved. The noble Viscount said: My Lords, I beg to move the Motion standing in my name which, as it involves a slightly unusual procedure under the Act of 1920, perhaps I may explain in a little detail to make it plainer than it overwise would be. I suppose that censuses have never been popular—indeed, one Book of the Bible suggests that they might even be irreligious. But they have in modern societies to be undertaken from time to time. Ours, which is due in 1961, will be undertaken under the Census Act, 1920. Section 1 of that Act provides that a census of population can be authorised by an Order in Council, the draft of which must be laid before both Houses of Parliament. The Order relates to Great Britain and, under the terms of the Schedule to the Act and of Section 1, must prescribe the date on which the Census is to be taken, the persons by whom and with respect to whom the returns for the purpose of the census are to be made, and thirdly the particulars to be stated in the returns; that is to say, the nature of the information which it is proposed to elicit from the householder.

The Schedule to the Act enumerates the matters in respect of which particulars may be required. They are in paragraphs 1 to 5 respectively: names, sex, age, occupation, trade or employment, nationality, birthplace, race and language, place of abode and character of dwelling, condition as to marriage, relation to the head of the family, issue born in marriage. But paragraph 6 adds 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.

My Lords, the present Motion is under these provisions and the Act provides by Section 1 that all of the information to be elicited, except the parts which come under that last paragraph of the Schedule, paragraph 6, should be on the Negative Resolution procedure for Orders in Council, but that any particulars required under the last paragraph, paragraph 6, have to be authorised under the Affirmative Resolution procedure—a curious hybrid arrangement which we are obliged to follow by the Act of Parliament itself. Of course, the Motion relates only to the latter—for this reason. Since no Resolution has been put down against the Order in Council, the parts of the draft Order in Council which require your Lordships' approval are those which are printed in the draft before your Lordships in italics—that is to say, Article 6(a)(i) to (iii), but not (iv) and (v); in Article 10 the whole of paragraph (c) but not the remaining paragraphs; in Part II, Articles 2, 3, and 4, and in Part III, Article 3.

As I told your Lordships, the Schedule to the Census Act, 1920, lists five matters in respect of which particulars may be asked without express approval. These are matters which by long usage had come to be regarded as regular inquiries, and it was felt that Parliament did not need to have attention expressly directed to them on every occasion. But provision was made for other inquiries not specifically covered by the Act to be approved by Resolution of both Houses. Some of these may be extensions of inquiries already made in previous Censuses, and some new developments do not need to be so authorised, as they are already covered. The parts of the 1960 Order, which we are considering, which require Affirmative Resolution are the paragraphs relating to housing tenure, marriage duration, education, scientific and technological qualifications, and internal population movement.

My Lords, one other explanatory point, if I may, about the machinery of the Act, which I personally find slightly cumbersome and difficult to understand. The particulars in the Schedule to the Order represent, in rather dry technical language, under the terms of the Statute, the particulars of the information to be elicited. Of course, that is not necessarily the form in which the question is asked of the householder. Under Section 3 of the Act the form of the question to the householder which elicits this information has to be promulgated in regulations made by my right honourable friend for the purpose of carrying out any Order in Council directing the Census to be taken. In other words, the question to the householder is presented in a form, presumably, in which he will be able to answer it easily; the information which is in the Order in Council to be elicited has to follow the more dry and technical form prescribed by the Statute. Whether that is altogether convenient it is not for me to discuss. This is the procedure which, under the Act of Parliament, we are bound to follow; and we are following it.

The Government Departments have been fully consulted in drawing up the programme. I may tell your Lordships that many suggestions from various quarters were examined for information to be taken in. The programme now put forward is held to be a reasonable balance—a balance, that is, between the convenience of the householder who has to fill up a form and the convenience of the statistical officers in the service of the public who wish to elicit information. We hope that the right balance has been struck. Most of the questions which are to be asked have appeared in previous Censuses, but there are alterations, extensions, and some new questions. The particulars to be covered in the Census returns are set out in the Second Schedule to the Order. Your Lordships will see that the Second Schedule is divided into four parts, of which the first is to be required of all householders; the second is to be taken by sampling procedure in 10 per cent. of the households. Part III relates to Scotland and Part IV to Wales.

May I deal now with some of the particular matters dealt with in the italicised part? The Resolution refers first to the inquiry about marriage and children (Article 6 (a) (i) to (iii) in Part I of the Second Schedule). Part only of this inquiry requires the Affirmative Resolution procedure, the rest being covered by the Schedule to the Act of 1920. The questions on marriage have varied from Census to Census. Duration of marriage and number of children were first asked in 1911; these were repeated in 1951, with further questions about whether married more than once and whether there had been a child born during the previous twelve months. Similar questions are proposed this time.

There is also a question asking for the date of the end of the marriage for a woman whose marriage (or if married more than once, whose first marriage) has been terminated by widowhood or divorce. The reason for including particulars of women whose marriage has been terminated by widowhood or divorce is to enable statistical use to be made of their experience as regards duration of marriage and number of children. This would be in cases where the marriage was not terminated until after the end of their childbearing life so that their experience in these respects could be regarded as comparable with that of women still married and their particulars could be included with the statistics of married women generally.

The statistics derived from these particulars will comprise the numbers of children born to women at different ages and at different durations of marriage. These will provide a much fuller picture of probable population trends than can be gained from the current birth and registration data alone. In 1911 this information was sought for all married women of whatever age. In 1951 it was sought only for married women under 50, as the 10 per cent. Sample Family Census conducted on behalf of the Royal Commission on Population had been addressed to all women who were married or had been married. This time it is again proposed to ask for the particulars for all women—that is to say, all women who are married at the time of the Census, and it is proposed to extend the question to women who have been married. The reason for this is that it is desirable to provide a complete picture of all generations. In estimating the trends in the size and pattern of families for successive generations, it is desirable to cover as long a period as possible. I am happy to tell your Lordships that there was no difficulty in obtaining the information in 1911, or in 1951, and there should be no difficulty in obtaining it this time.

May I now turn to the new question about housing tenure, which, as I told your Lordships, is in Article 10 (c) in Part I of Second Schedule? The questions on housing have been expanded as compared with 1951, because of the great use of the Census data to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government in connection with housing requirements. The new questions (of which only those relating to housing tenure require an Affirmative Resolution and are thereby comprised within the Motion) relate to type of building and extend the inquiry about household arrangements to cover hot water supply. The question about housing tenure asks whether the accommodation occupied by a household is held by them as owner-occupiers, is occupied in connection with employment or as part of busines premises, is rented from a council or a private landlord or is occupied on some other terms. At present this sort of information has to be pieced together from a variety of sources, with incomplete coverage. The new question will provide reliable, comprehensive information, compiled on a uniform basis for all types of tenure, which will have great value in the consideration of various policy questions of housing and town planning. Here I should perhaps refer to Article 3 of Part III as it modifies the new question to fit Scottish circumstances.

The next inquiry covered by the Resolution (Article 2, in Part II of Second Schedule) asks the age at which full-time education ceased. This will provide information about the general level of education in the community, and can be combined with the occupation question to give comparative figures of educational level and current occupation for people leaving school at different ages. In 1951, the question was confined to persons in gainful occupation, as the main purpose was to obtain the level of education for persons in employment and to relate it to the work that followed: the extension to the population generally is new.

We come to a new question in Article 3 in Part II of Second Schedule, which asks for scientific and technological qualifications. The Census provides a convenient means of obtaining the information which can be related to the other information on the Census return—for example, current employment. The question is included because of the need for more information about the six, age distribution and occupation of highly qualified scientific and technological personnel; and those of your Lordships who remember the Report of the Manpower Committee of the Advisory Council on Scientific Policy in 1956 will recall that they referred to the paucity of available statistical information of this kind.

The next question covered by the Resolution is Article 4, in Part 2 of the Second Schedule. This is another new question, the object of which is to obtain information on the frequency, amount, direction and characteristics of population movements within this country; and to measure the degree of permanence of usual residence. At present, I am sorry to say, very little is known statistically about movement from area to area within the country or about the duration of people's periods of residence at the addresses they describe as their usual residences. The new question will make it possible for the first time to measure with some accuracy the amount of movement of the population. The new information will help to improve the present estimates of population, and will assist planning authorities to fore- cast the need for housing and various essential services.

I might perhaps refer briefly to another innovation, although this does not require the Affirmative Resolution procedure. In addition to the usual information about the numbers and condition of the people in various parts of the country at a fixed point in time—the Census Night—inquiries are proposed, on a sample basis only, concerning the usual make-up of private households. Thus people are asked to give particulars not only of the persons present in the house on Census Night but also some particulars of members of the households who happen to be away from home. I believe that I have dealt with that. I have also dealt with the question of sample enumeration, which again is not so primarily concerned with the Affirmative Resolution before your Lordships. I must apologise for having gone into this matter at a little length. The Committee which look's at these matters thought that the House could not easily pass this Order without special attention, and I therefore thought it proper to do what I could to elucidate both the procedure to be followed and the matters to which the Resolution related. I beg to move.

Moved, That Articles 6 (a) (i) to (iii) and 10 (c) of Part I, Articles 2, 3, and 4 of Part II and Article 3 of Part III of the Second Schedule to the draft of the Order in Council, entitled the Census Order, 1960 be approved.—(Viscount Hailsham.)

3.26 p.m.


My Lords, I do not think the noble and learned Viscount need apologise in any way for his description, because I feel that it is very essential that, so far as possible, we should understand what we are doing in regard to this draft Order; and I am quite sure that his remarks have been very useful to your Lordships. As to whether he has entirely enabled all of us to understand all the details of the draft Order I am a little more doubtful, because it is exceedingly complicated and not easy to follow. The noble and learned Viscount says, however, that it has been submitted to a number of people who should know, and I am afraid that in the main we shall have to take his word for that, because I do not think we can check it in any way.

There are one or two major points on which I am not clear, and if the noble and learned Viscount has spoken on them already I should like him to repeat his words later. Are we to understand that all the paragraphs, or partial paragraphs, which are printed in ordinary type are really a reproduction of similar paragraphs that have been used in previous Census forms? Are we to understand, at the same time, that all those printed in italics are new items which have not appeared in previous forms? If that be so, I imagine that the former, having been tried out in previous years, are more or less accepted by the country and that our main consideration should be of those in italics, which, so far as I can gather (although I am not quite clear), are new questions.

It seems to me that one or two of those new questions, while they do not demand opposition in any sense, are matters upon which we should be glad to have a little more information. The first point concerns Article 6 in Part I of the Second Schedule. I can quite understand the importance of several of those questions for statistical purposes, and I should be quite unwilling to limit the statistical information which the Government seek to obtain. I am a little doubtful, however, as to why all these questions are asked of the woman and not of the man. It seems to me, offhand, that what is sauce for the goose might also be sauce for the gander; and if it is thought desirable to ask those questions of women I do not exactly see why they should not be asked of men at the same time. It may be that it is not necessary and that, having got the information from the party more knowledgeable in the matter of children, they need not ask them of the man; but I should like to know precisely if that is so.

In particular, I should like to repeat what I said generally a little earlier. Are we to understand that those parts of Article 6 which are not referred to in italics are a repetition of what appeared in previous Orders, while those in italics are new ones, or am I incorrect in forming that opinion? I am very glad that in Article 6 as it stands the questions are put discreetly, because I remember very well in connection with one Registration Order, that a good many of the questions the Government then proposed to ask were expressed most indiscreetly. That fact gave rise to a great deal of opposition in another place when I was there some years ago—I believe during the time of Sir Kingsley Wood—and the wording was completely altered between promulgation and final acceptance by the other place. It may well be that those who have compiled these questions are more discreetly minded than was the case in those days. We are told that these questions, as they are here, are not the actual questions that will be asked but that they will be put in a similar form. I should be all in favour of that, because I think that some of these questions are quite complicated; but I hope that indiscretions which do not appear in this text will not reappear in an undesirable form in the questions as they are actually asked.

There is one other question which I should like to put. I am quite pleased to see, in Part II of the Second Schedule, the questions about persons' residence. I only hope that they will be understood by the people who have to answer the questions. They are very complicated and there are immense numbers of them. I think that the Government show very great confidence in the intelligence of the electorate in imagining that all these questions will be understood and answered correctly. I shall study the form when I have one, and I am quite sure that I shall put a wet cloth around my head when I try to deal with it. I am also sure that a great many of the householders and others of this country are likely to suffer the same inconvenience at the same time. However, we will hope for the best, and hope that the statistics which the Government are going to procure by this method will be of value to the nation. When the noble Viscount replies, I shall be glad to have an answer to these questions.

3.32 p.m.


My Lords, I am sure that we are all grateful to the noble Viscount for the extensive way in which he has explained this matter, and it is not simple. In supporting, in the main, what the noble Lord, Lord Pethick-Lawrence, said, I would also agree with the noble Viscount that censuses are not popular. They are, of course, necessary for various vital statistics (by "vital statistics" I do not mean that term in the other sense), but they can be, I think, misused and we, must safeguard against censuses being used for irrelevant information. Here we are up against a definition of what is relevant and what is useful. I have no doubt that these questions which are asked will produce matter which will be extremely useful to those in Whitehall, but I am not quite certain that the extent to which they are using their authority to ask these questions has not been rather stretched.

Of course, the electorate may object to certain questions that are asked, and by legislation they can be forced to answer these questions and suffer the consequences if they do not. This might go further. Suppose that this questionnaire asked, "How many visits have you made to your dentist? To what extent do you use contraceptives? What are your political views?", or "What proportion of your income is spent on flowers?" Those can be made mandatory questions which must be answered. I am not suggesting that these questions go so far as that, but I think that, in Part 1, Article 6 (a) (i), (ii) and (iii) the questions in respect of a married woman do infringe on the privacy of the individual and that in many cases they will be taken exception to. Therefore, in general, I cannot support the Motion for this Order to go through, and if I find enough vocal support in other parts of the House I should rather like to see the Motion negatived.

3.34 p.m.


My Lords, when this Order came before the Special Orders Committee it seemed to me that there was here involved a question of very considerable principle which I should like to bring to the attention of your Lordships' House. Article 4 of the Order in Council, following the Statute, provides in these terms: In the case of all persons with respect to whom returns are to be made, the returns shill state the particulars specified in Parts I and II of the second schedule to this Order. When we come to the Second Schedule we see that it is headed: Particulars to be stated in all returns". I call attention more particularly to Article 10 of the Schedule, and point out that these particulars have to be given by cottagers, people living in council houses, people living in tenement houses, and, I daresay, even seaside landladies and people of that sort. It will probably generally be left to the wife to fill in these particulars, and it seemed to me that people of that class, unaccustomed to documents of this sort, would have great difficulty in giving the information and understanding the information that they had to give. But I was told by the representative of the Ministry present, "You need not bother about that. These will not be the particulars that will be asked for. The Minister will frame regulations which will make everything perfectly clear." Why on earth, if the Minister is going to frame regulations which will make everything perfectly clear, cannot the regulations be put into the Order in Council, so that the House may know to what they are giving their assent? It seems to me that we are being asked now to give consent to an Order in Council which we are told will be cleared up in some way or another by some regulations.

As the noble Viscount pointed out, the sixth paragraph of the Schedule to the Act gives very wide powers with regard to the particulars that have to be given: particulars 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. I think we should know to what we are being asked to give assent. I know that the Act provides that any regulations made by the Minister have also to be laid before the House, but I think it is a matter of very considerable doubt how far the Minister can clear up these doubts. The Minister is given power by regulations to prescribe the form; but prescribing the form, as I understand it, does not enable the Minister to cut down these questions or to enlarge them, and I doubt whether it gives him power to explain them.

The Statute says that the particulars that are to be given are to be set out in the Order, and the Order says that these particulars are to be given by everybody. Therefore it seems to me that this is the governing document, and I think that the House ought to know—is entitled to know—exactly what the questions are, or the particulars which will be sought, before they give their consent to this Order.

3.38 p.m.


My Lords, I suppose I shall be told, if I venture to comment on this matter and to support my old friend, Lord Pethick-Lawrence, and the noble Lord, the ex-Lord Chief Justice, that I was a member of a Government that in the course of the last 40 years passed some Act under which this is done. But all I can say is that one's colleagues did a lot of odd things which one did not altogether appreciate until long afterwards. But even if I were responsible for this myself, which I was not—it may well be that the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, is responsible for it; he held the office and it was one I did not hold—I still think that this is a very odd Order. We have to be careful about the Census. The Lord Bishops will remind us that according to the Old Testament one historic character got into great trouble over a census, and that ought to be a lesson to us all that we should put into a Census only what it is necessary in the public interest that people should know.

I must say that this sort of omnibus inquiry is one of the most extraordinary things I have ever seen. To be told that certain things were put down in 1911 is not sufficient reason. I do not remember—and I have filled up a good many Census forms in the course of a long life—having had these intimate questions asked of me. It seems to me that if this Order goes through without any further elucidation we shall be putting Doctor Gallup out of business—I do not know whether that is a bad thing. But, apparently, any question can be asked of the most intimate kind. I remember the trouble there was over one set of inquiries which all had to be altered. We have not the least idea on the face of this Order of the form that these inquiries are going to take. All one can say is that the Minister is going to be able to ask any woman—why not any man I do not know; I appreciate the nice distinction which enables you to ask every kind of intimate question of some unfortunate woman about her married life—why she was married, and why she stopped being married. Why not the man? Is it the sort of delicacy which says that you must not say: "Who were you with last night?"

Now suppose the Minister does produce all these very varied questions— and I know, and noble Lords on both sides of the House who have been in Ministries for a long time know, exactly how these sort of things come about. We were told by the Minister that a great many people who know a great deal about all these things have been consulted. Of course they have. Every Nosey Parker you can find has been consulted about this, and everybody who thought there might be something that at some time it would be useful to know has put it in. It is rather like the way the T.U.C. works, I understand; you produce a resolution, everybody puts something in, and then, apparently, everybody gets satisfied. All these things can apparently be included. But why? And to what purpose? I am not the least impressed when I am told that forty-five Government Departments have had a hand in this, and that a number of social busybodies have also had a hand in it and have put down all the things that they would like to make inquiries about.

I should like to ask the Minister this: when this questionnaire is produced—I have not seen the questionnaire, but when it is produced—if some unfortunate woman, or even some mere man, says, "I do not want to give these peculiarly intimate details about my private life", or if some unfortunate person is incapable of filling in all these statistics about the rateable value of his land, and what it would be worth if it was devoted to another purpose, and so on (and I am perfectly certain that I could not do it without the assistance of my land agent or of an accountant), and objects, what is the penalty? Does he go to prison? Is he prosecuted? Is he held in contempt? Even in the United States you can plead the Fourth Amendment (is it not?) if you are asked questions which would tend to incriminate you or which you do not want to answer. And in this country, even if you are suspected by the police, you do not have to answer questions of an embarrassing kind. What is going to be the position of the people who are asked questions here and refuse to answer? My Lords, I think we ought to know that.

Really, would it not be much better, before we part with this thing—and this is about the only opportunity we are going to have, because if we pass this Order then the Minister can do anything, and we shall not see it—that we should see the questionnaire? Nobody knows more about these things than the noble and learned Lord, Lord Goddard, who has had the opportunity of going into this matter in Committee, and he has not the faintest idea, and has warned the House about it, what the Minister is going to put in; and he is very doubtful whether this can be made into a reasonable form. May we not suggest that, before we part with this Motion—and it is perfectly easy to adjourn it—we should see what is the questionnaire which is going to be put to the men and women of England? We shall not then have this obscure Order, but shall know exactly what the questions are which are going to be asked, and we shall have none of the kind of difficulties that the noble Lord, Lord Pethick-Lawrence, and I remember happened in the House of Commons thirty or forty years ago. We shall know exactly the form of the questions, and we shall be able to form our own judgment whether they are sensible and proper questions to put and whether they are put in such a way that the ordinary individual can understand them.

I would venture to make the proposition to the House that the Minister for Science might well take this back for the moment and then present us with the questionnaire which the Ministry (whichever one it is) which uses these things intends to produce. Then, if it is a sensible questionnaire, I am quite certain that we shall pass it with acclamation; but if it is full of embarrassing things, we ought to have a chance of saying so.

3.45 p.m.


My Lords, might I say that I had intended saying a word with regard to the suggestion of the noble Lord, Lord Rea, that, if necessary, we should have a Division on this matter. I have been exceedingly interested in the speech made by the noble Earl, Lord Swinton, and I cannot see that there would be any real difficulty in proceeding along the line that he has suggested. There is, I think, complete support in all parts of the House for reasonable requirements to be made of the citizenship for the purpose for which a census is conducted, and in a modern State it would be quite improper to put unnecessary difficulties in the way of arty Government obtaining that statistical information which is necessary for them to formulate policy—policy in quite a large number of fields.

On the other hand, it is certain that it ought to be clear to all the citizenship exactly what they are required to answer, and I think we ought to take into consideration the point that I was going to raise—it was touched on very briefly by the noble and learned Lord who spoke just now—with regard to premises, on page 4, part of Article 10. That will raise all kinds of questions on different types of estate. The noble and learned Lord referred to the variety of classes of persons who would have to answer, from cottagers upwards. There are all sorts of things which arise on different estates. Some have cottages that are let at what I would call the proper annual value rent; others are let at special, private rents; some tenants are given cottages which are quite free. Often these arrangements, made by benevolent landlords—and, by the way, by a large number of farmers with regard to their employees—are matters of entire privacy between themselves and their employees to whom they give These privileges. This kind of thing is therefore likely to lead to all kinds of consulting with each other as to what they are going to answer to Question (a), (b), (c) or (d), and will perhaps give rise to a good deal of unnecessary feeling—jealousy, maybe, and things of that kind. I do not want to see privileges, which are given for all kinds of things—for special qualification, for long service, for good service and the like—if they are matters of privacy between the employer and the employed, in any way endangered by this kind of thing.

With regard to some of the other suggestions made, may tell the noble and learned Viscount that I would not dream of wandering into some of the areas of information which it is supposed will be sought, or which has been suggested. I am quite sure that they were put as a light touch to the questions addressed to him, and I do not want to go into them. But I feel, in all the circumstances, that, unless the questions which are going to be asked are so detailed and contain all the information necessary, and unless the questionnaire is to be subject to the Affirmative Resolution procedure also, perhaps it would be wiser to withdraw the Order for the present and to have it looked at again. We can then have the considered view of Her Majesty's Government, and all the information will be before Parliament prior to its giving its final authority.

3.49 p.m.


My Lords, I hope your Lordships will have in mind that we are not considering the actual questionnaire which is to be submitted to the people of this country; we are considering a Draft Order, which is naturally couched in comparatively legal language; and I am sure that we may have confidence that the eventual questionnaire will be in the plain and intelligible terms which were used by its long line of predecessors. Speaking for my sex, may I say that we are most grateful for the gallant defence, continued over so long by the noble Lord, Lord Pethick-Lawrence, and the noble Lord, Lord Rea, in their raising the point as to whether under this Order questions ought to be asked of women that are not asked of men. We appreciate what your Lordships have done, and no one more than myself, in assimilating the position of the sexes.

But there remain certain differences, and they are differences that I think neither sex would wish wholly to obliterate. There is some information which women are in a better position than men to give and which is more relevant in the case of women than in the case of men. This information is of peculiar importance in estimating that vital issue, the future population of this country. Therefore, much as we appreciate the defence of our sex that has been put up by those gallant defenders on whom we constantly rely, we do not propose on this occasion to challenge the practice of asking us things which we are in a better position to communicate than perhaps our husbands. Sometimes there are advantages in addressing us directly. It is now 25 years ago—therefore I think that I may safely refer to the matter—since I had the pleasure of defrauding a foreign Government of a considerable sum of money. After travelling abroad with my husband, on leaving the country we were asked whether we had any earnings to declare—that is to say, my husband was asked whether he had any earnings which should be declared for the purpose of income tax. He truthfully answered, "No". No question was addressed to the female half of the partnership, either directly or indirectly—and so long as we are left out, there may be consequences which are unfortunate.

I recount that little experience by way of illustration; but seriously, this is an Order which is going to give information which all of us who are interested in social policy regard as vital for the determination of future policy, whether it is to be determined by those on the Benches opposite or those on the Benches on this side. Therefore we do not hesitate to accept that questions on these lines, suitably framed, should be put to the population at large.

3.52 p.m.


My Lords, I am always anxious to answer questions put in relation to a particular matter and also, where necessary, to yield to the wishes of the House on any matter on which your Lordships express yourselves strongly. I must thank the noble Baroness, Lady Wootton of Abinger, for speaking, as I thought, so sensibly about this matter, because I think that a great deal of the feelings which have been expressed are based on a misunderstanding, which I can only attribute to myself. I tried to be plain about the context of the matter but evidently did not succeed.

First of all, I apologise to the noble Lord, Lord Pethick-Lawrence, for not having made plain, as I thought I had, the difference between the italic and the roman type. The difference is not dependent upon whether or not the questions have appeared on previous Census papers. Some of the italicised questions which have been most criticised are extremely old. The difference is that they require an Affirmative Resolution. Therefore, although I referred to the roman type questions in order to show the context, and indeed could not have been intelligible had I not done so, we are discussing only the italicised portions and not any other.


My Lords, of course I understood that that was the distinction which the noble Viscount was making, but I thought, wrongly apparently, that there was also a distinction between those Articles and the others. I did not imagine that he had said that, but I thought we had to infer that. But I am entirely wrong. Could the noble Viscount tell us which of the Articles are new? That seems to be very important and I do not think that he told us.


My Lords, I did endeavour to go through that, but I am sure the noble Lord is not asking me to achieve the impossible. I tried to give the significant differences between the powers in this Order and in previous Orders, but they are so numerous and minute that I really could not charge myself to give every particular way in which this Order differs from previous Orders. If the noble Lord wishes me to pursue the matter, I would ask his indulgence and acquire from him a complete list of the changes that he wishes to know about; but I could not charge myself to do this now, because some of them are minutiæ, some are extensions, some modifications and many of them quite insignificant. What I have tried to do is to give a summary of the significant changes. I could not give a complete list without much more consideration, and when the House heard it I doubt whether your Lordships would feel it was of much assistance. But if the noble Lord wants me to pursue this point, I gladly will.


My Lords, referred particularly to Article 6, to the questions being asked of women. It seems important to know whether they are being asked for the first time. Could the noble Viscount not say, without going into the whole lot—we should be here for hours, no doubt—what the position is on that Article? I wrote to the noble Viscount in advance on this matter and I thought that perhaps he could say which part of Article 6 is new and which part was in previous Census forms.


My Lords, I answered that in detail in my opening remarks, but I will deal with it again, if I may, because obviously it occupies the noble Lord's mind. The main differ- ence between this and the 1951 Census is that it covers all women instead of women of 50 downwards. But that is not the only difference. I could repeat myself if the House desired me to do so, but perhaps the noble Lord will look at the OFFICIAL REPORT to-morrow. The other main difference is that the date of the termination of the first marriage is asked for for the first time.

If I may address myself to the question of which the noble Lord says he gave me notice, I would say that the confusion is verbal. This question is not asked of women; it is asked of the householder. All questions have to be answered by the householder, including those relating Ito women. The answer was broadly given by the noble Baroness, Lady Wootton of Abinger. In the main these questions go back to 1911 and, for aught I know, long beyond. One or two new questions were added in 1951 and slight modifications and extensions were made thereafter. In fact, if we take the 1946 statistics, Which had to be given for the purpose of the Royal Commission, and the 1951 Census together, I think that we shall find that there is nothing new in what is now asked, except that in the case of the Census it is now asked of all women instead of those from 50 downwards.

Why it is asked concerning women and not men is because it is with regard to the fertility of marriages and size of families. The statistical fact required is about the children born of a particular wife, and it is simply asked of women because if it were asked of both sexes the information would be duplicated. It is far more convenient to get the information in relation to the women rather than in relation to the man. Indeed the convenience is overwhelming, because it bus always been done that way, and if you now started getting it from the man none of your figures would be comparable with past statistics. Therefore I should have thought that there was an overwhelming case for asking those questions relating to women.

I am sure the noble Lord, Lord Rea, would concede to me that I never tried to misrepresent his arguments, but I do not know what he meant when he referred to questions of contraceptives and things like that. They are not mentioned in the Schedule to the Act; nor are they in the draft Order in Council which we are discussing; nor, so far as I know, do they relate to statistical information.


My Lords, I referred to that as being quite irrelevant and not justified by any powers which a Census has, and I compared it with the question "Whether married more than once, and the date of the first marriage"; and "if that marriage has been terminated, what was the date of termination". Such questions can cause great distress and, in certain circumstances, ruin a marriage.


Then I must have misunderstood the noble Lord. There is really nothing in the Order except what is written down there: the date of the first marriage and the date of termination. In answer to the noble Lord, Lord Rea, I would say this. These are, in the main, as I have said, particulars some of which go back to 1911 and for aught I know to 1901 and before. Slight modifications have been introduced in order to obtain population statistics which are really required and can be got only in this way. I would draw the attention of the noble Lord to the provision on page 2 for members of a household who wish to give confidential returns not known to the head of the household. That provision is made and always has been made in these Censuses precisely in order to protect privacy. Secondly, I would say to the noble Lord, in all seriousness, that the date of a marriage, although of course it relates to one's intimate private life, as my noble friend Lord Swinton said, is not something which is particularly private, because the marriage is a public event. So is the date at which one's first husband died. The date upon which one's decree absolute was pronounced in open court in the divorce court, which is open to publication, although it relates to one's private life, is a public event which is deliberately publicised by the policy of the law in order that it may remain a public event. The number of children born during a marriage, which has been asked in all Censuses from the time they first came into being, although relating in a peculiar sense to one's intimate private life, is still a public event and has to be registered. All that is being done here is to collect that number of public events together from information given by the person to whom they are most closely known and to put them in a form in which they are statistically available to the Government for purposes which are admittedly legitimate.

I think that my noble friend Lord Swinton was going far beyond the facts of the case when he sought to pretend that there were a number of embarrassing and intimate questions. I would ask the House to say that there is nothing here which has not in principle been asked before; that there is nothing here which is not in principle required, and nothing which justifies phrases like "busybodies" and "pryers" and that kind of thing, about which he was talking. I must say bluntly to my noble friend that it is all very well to complain of some anonymous civil servants of the public who have been through this information thoroughly and to call them by this kind of name. I wish to say boldly and firmly that those who are responsible for the Schedule are my right honourable friends and myself, and not civil servants at all. It would, of course, be utterly improper that a document of this kind should be laid before Parliament, first in the other place (where it did not occasion quite this debate) and now in your Lordships' House, if Ministers were not prepared to take the responsibility for it. I must say that some of the phrases that my noble friend used seemed to imply that this was not so in the present case.


Not in the least; the noble Viscount must not misrepresent me. He himself said that he had had a great many people, officials and so on, who had considered and contributed to this. I said that that did not impress me very much. Of course the noble Viscount takes responsibility for it; and he has no need to lecture me, as a Minister of almost as long standing as he is, because I always took responsibility as a Minister. But it is because we hold the noble Viscount responsible that we are asking him, as the Minister, now to let us see the questionnaire.


I am sorry then that my noble friend referred to me—and it must now be me he referred to—either as a "pryer" or a "busybody", because those are words to which I take exception. I thought them improper as applied to civil servants, and as applied to myself I consider them unjust. I must say that I hope my noble friend, on reflection, will say that they do not apply to me; or, if he persists in them, that he will say on what ground he bases the charge. I thought that was not justified as against the civil servants or as against the Minister of the Crown.

Having said that, I turn to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Goddard, who made a speech which seemed to me to betray a misunderstanding of what we can and what we cannot do under the Act of 1920. The particulars which are given in the Schedule to the draft Order have to be given there because that is what Section 1 of the Act of 1920 demands should be done. All that has to be done in the formal language of the law, so that Parliament—not the householder—may know what is the information that is sought to be elicited. Therefore we put down in formal language that the information is to include full name, relation to the head of the family, sex, age in years and months and whether married more than once; date of first marriage, and, if that first marriage has been terminated, the date of termination and so on; and in the case of the dwelling, whether the dwelling is occupied by virtue of employment, rented as part of or together with other premises, used by the tenant for the purposes of getting his livelihood, or rented from a local authority or new town development corporation and so on. This is the information that we seek to elicit, and before we are allowed to draft a questionnaire, or put it before the House, Parliament must be satisfied that this information is information which ought to be asked in any questionnaire. That is all that the Order in Council does contain, and it is all that it can contain.

If the noble Lord had pursued the matter (as I know he has), I think he would have conceded that the regulations can only be laid, and will only be laid, after the Order in Council is passed by the House, and that the questionnaire must be contained in the Regulations. In other words, if I may put a simple example, the Schedule to this Order says that the particulars are to include the sex of each person in the Census. The regulations will prescribe a question and answer which will, for example, say "Write 'M' or 'F'", and then there will be a little box for "M" or for "F". If they were then to ask impertinent questions of the kind suggested by the noble Lord, Lord Rea, those regulations would be ultra vires. Nobody knows that better than the noble and learned Lord, Lord Goddard, who has had such a very wide and varied judicial experience.

But when he asks me why the questionnaire does not occur in the Order in Council, and whether it would not be better if it did, my answer to him quite frankly, is that the Act of Parliament under which this Census is taken demands and prescribes that there should first be an Order in Council in this form and then a form of regulations prescribing the questionnaire and seeing that the questionnaire keeps to the Order in Council. So far from that being an added burden on the householder, I would suggest to the House that it is, in fact, an added safeguard for the householder, because any householder can say in relation to a question—and he could challenge it before the brethren of the noble and learned Lord —"This is a question framed to elicit information which Parliament has not authorised." He can, in fact, impugn the validity of the regulations; and no doubt if they were of the kind that some noble Lords have suggested some village Hampden would do that very thing. Does the noble and learned Lord wish me to give way?


I merely wished to point out that the Act requires the particulars to be stated in the returns, and not in some regulations which may be made. The Act is perfectly clear, and the Order in Council is clear. These are the particulars which are to be stated in the returns, and the returns have to be made by the householder.


Surely, my Lords, this is a false point. The Order in Council prescribes that certain information—particulars—should be elicited. The section of the Act says that, when such an Order in Council has received the approval of Parliament, the Minister shall make regulations prescribing the forms to be used in taking a Census. That necessarily implies two separate stages in the proceedings, one to follow the other: first, the particulars as in the Order in Council and, second, the forms which, of course, must be in the form of question and answer which will direct to the mind of the householder the information required to provide the particulars. That can be done only by question and answer in the ordinary way.


May I ask—


I will certainly give way, but I want to deal faithfully with each question. Then the noble Lord asked me why the form is not in the Order in Council. The answer is that it might well have been a better plan to do it that way; but I do not know. We have to do it in the way and in the Order in which Parliament has told us.


I entirely accept that. But what I think the House want to know is this: Are they going to see the questionnaire? The noble Viscount says—and I am sure he is right—that the responsible Minister cannot frame the questionnaire until he has an Order in Council authorising him to do so. Of course we pass an Order in Council. But what we want to know is: Are we going to see the questionnaire?— because that is the real test. If my noble friend tells us that after we have passed this Order the Minister will then make a further Order, or a regulation, which includes the questionnaire, and that that will be available to Parliament to debate, certainly on a Negative Resolution—I do not ask for an Affirmative Resolution—then I think we should be completely satisfied.


I am glad my noble friend has put this point. He will forgive me if I quote the actual words of the Statute, because they are sometimes clearer than what Ministers say.


No, I do not think they are.


I will do my best. Section 3 of the Act provides as follows: For the purpose of enabling any Order in Council directing a census to be taken to be carried into effect, the Minister of Health may make regulations … (f) with respect to the forms to be used in the taking of a census. Then subsection (2) says: Every regulation made under this section shall be laid before both Houses of Parliament … It then goes on to say that it becomes subject to the Negative Resolution procedure.


My Lords, could this point be made perfectly plain, while we are discussing it at such length, because here are the authorities upon which the Government proceed? We have asked certain specific questions, and the noble Viscount is doing his best to answer them. Whatever promise is made, we do not want to give authority for wrong regulations if every point we are not satisfied about in the Order has not been met.


I appreciate the noble Viscount's anxiety, and I am doing my best to answer him conscientiously. The only point I am on at the moment is that we are now concerned with rather an unusual and awkward procedure which represents the earliest stage in this course of events. It is awkward and unusual because not only are we dealing only with the preliminary parts, but we are dealing only with part of the Order in Council—that part which requires an Affirmative Resolution. It is indeed the inhibition of that which prevented my explaining at greater length what the other parts of the Order contemplate. I have tried to show to my noble friend—and I think I am correct—that regulations inevitably form the second stage, and that the forms under the regulations will be related there and will be subject to Parliamentary approval under the Negative Resolution procedure in the ordinary way.


I am sorry to interrupt again. I appreciate what the noble Viscount said about the Act of Parliament being simpler than a Ministerial explanation. But what the noble Viscount has not cleared up is what these regulations will contain. If they contain another statement such as is in the Order, then I do not think that is good enough. It may be what is laid down in the Act. But what the House wants to see is the questions that are going to be asked of the householder. If the noble Viscount could say whether it is strictly in the regulation or not, that the regulations will contain as a schedule or accompanying document—a White Paper if you like—the questionnaire which is going to be put to the millions of people in this country, and that we shall have the chance of looking at it, discussing it and commenting upon it, I am sure we should all be satisfied.


My Lords, I hope I can satisfy my noble friend. I am always a little anxious—and I hope the House will think rightly—about seeking to interpret an Act of Parliament, so to speak, from the Box. My noble friend has great experience as a Minister, as he reminded us. A Minister can fall into very serious traps by trying to do so. But I think I can satisfy him on this point. First of all, the regulations have to be laid before Parliament. That is quite clear from the section which I read out. If my noble friend wishes to ensure that he sees the questionnaire, or has a reasonable explanation why he has not got it, one of two things is open to him. If it is in the regulations he will be able to read it in advance. If it is not (I cannot give him an absolute promise about this for the reason I have given: that I should not like, from the Box, to pontificate about an Act of Parliament) and he feels he is entitled to it, he can put down a Motion.


That is good enough.


I am obliged to my noble friend. That is all I would say on that particular point.

The noble Viscount, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough, raised the point of privacy with which I fully sympathise. I would point out to him two things, one of which I pointed out to the noble Lord, Lord Rea. The first is the provision on page 2 of the Order for the member of the household who wanted to conceal his data from the householder but has to provide the return. He has a procedure whereby he can do it. Secondly, of course, under the Act, and maybe the Order in Council as well—but certainly under the Act—the confidentiality is expressly protected by the penalties clause; that is to say, if either the householder or the officer collecting the information divulges, except to the proper authority, anything contained in it, he is subject to serious penalties in the courts. I do not know what more we can do with those two things. Certainly that has been done from the first; and although from time to rime the question is raised as to these matters, I think I am right in saying that it has never in practice given rise to any abuse or scandal. I do not know what more we can do at any stage than what has been done in the past, and has been done with success. I hope the noble Lord will be satisfied with that. I am now able to satisfy my noble friend Lord Swinton. The actual Census form is included in the regulations. I hope my noble friend will realise I could not say that unless I had it actually confirmed. I felt it was so, but I did not want to assure him that it was so until I was certain.

The noble Viscount and, I think, my noble friend and the noble Lord, Lord Goddard, also raised questions of one sort and another under Article 10 of Part I of the Order relating to tenure. With respect both to the noble and learned Lord and to the noble Earl, I think they made rather too heavy weather of it. I quite appreciate that this form has to be filled up by cottagers. I think it is a mistake to underestimate the ability of cottagers these days to fill up forms. But it is, I think, fair to say, both of my noble friend and of the noble Viscount opposite, that they rather exaggerated the problems of answering the questions by not considering in concrete what the questions are. There is nothing there about rent or rateable value or anything like that. What is asked is, broadly speaking, "Do you own the house you live in?" Is there really anything impossible in a householder answering that question? I should have thought not. It is a matter of opinion for the House, but I should have thought not. Or, again, "If you do not own it, is it a service cottage or are you a tenant?" I have yet to know the farm labourer who does not know the answer to that question. It may be the noble and learned Lord, remembering all the cases under the Rent Acts, would say that he would find it very difficult to answer. So should I. But I do not believe that the average farm labourer is inhibited by that kind of learning.

The next question is: "If you do not occupy it as a service cottage, is your landlord the local authority?"; is that very difficult? I think not. The farm labourer may think so, but it is for him to say. Finally, "If from a private landlord, is it let to you furnished or unfurnished?" There is no question about whether it is covered by the Rent Acts; which, with so many noble and learned Lords on the Cross-Benches, I would hesitate to say was a simple matter, although most tenants appear to know the answer, as well as some of us in individual cases. There is none of that. It is simply, "Is it let furnished or unfurnished?" We know the Court of Appeal has decided probably 30 cases on this difficult question, sometimes overruling itself. But the cottager is not necessarily inhibited by the doubts of the Court of Appeal, and he can hazard a pretty rough guess as to whether he rents it furnished or unfurnished. If he is wrong, I feel sure I am right in saying that nobody will think the worse of him, provided that it was an honest mistake.

I quite agree that one can make fun of anything about which it is desired to obtain statistical information. It is, of course, for the House to say—this Order is specifically put before Parliament—whether it is reasonable or unreasonable for my right honourable friend the Minister of Housing to say that he wants this information in order to house the people. The only point I am concerned to show is that it is not altogether correct to argue, as the noble and learned Lord did, that these questions are too difficult for a cottager to answer simply because in the Schedule to the Order, which he will not see, they are put in highly technical language. There is a last way in which the cottager can answer the question, because there is an omnibus clause at the end saying "If in doubt explain exactly how you hold the house".

I do not know, if the information is worth getting, how it could be got in a simpler way. It is for the House to decide whether it is worth getting. I have tried to deal with everything put to me with such force by various noble Lords. I would hope that noble Lords would give me my Order to-day. If I am pressed, I do not want to force the House to come to a decision if it does not feel it right to do so, and I am not going to adopt the position of trying to do so. On the other hand, I hope that with the explanation I have given, and with the opportunity for further discussion which I have demonstrated exists, the House will support us in asking for the Order now.


My Lords, before the noble and learned Viscount sits down, I should like to ask this question, which I think will influence the House considerably in coming to a decision with regard to the last point raised by the noble and learned Viscount. There are a very large number of questions in this Order. The noble and learned Viscount said he could not tell us exactly in detail which were new and which were old. But could he give us some sort of idea what proportion are new and what proportion are old? If there are more new questions than old, I think the House will want to think about the matter further. He may not be able to give me the proportion in exact figures, but are there 95 per cent. old and only 5 per cent. new? Are the great bulk of the questions the same as appeared in the last Census, or are a very large number of them new ones? I think the House is entitled to know that particular fact.


This is a very difficult question to answer in point of numbers or figures. The question about tenure is new, and that is a long question; that is the longest of the new questions. I have already dealt with the question about marriage. That is a matter of opinion. I should have said that it was almost entirely old. I think it could be agreed that there have been modifications. But the question about tenure is new; that is Article 10 of Part I. The procedure of sampling of particulars is, I think, new, but the questions in it are largely old. I have now received the information which I said was difficult to give. I am told that 10 per cent. of the questions are new and 90 per cent. old. I hope that the House will again forgive my caution in not giving the figures until they were confirmed. My impression is that it would be fair to say that, apart from the question about tenure, part of the question about marriage, and the question about the duration of full-time education, which is different but not wholly new; the question about science and technology, which is wholly new, and the question about population movement (that is the last paragraph, Article 4 of the sample ones in Part II) and the question about absentees, it is virtually all old, with modifications. I think that deals fairly with the noble Lord's question.


I asked the noble and learned Viscount to withdraw the Order for the time being because I felt that we all wanted to see the questionnaire. Now we know that we are going to see the questionnaire, and that it will be scheduled to the regulations, I feel that all the points we have raised, in all quarters of the House, have been completely met; and so far as I am concerned I hope that the House will give the noble and learned Viscount his Order.


My Lords, may I ask the noble and learned Viscount whether the House will not only see but also have an opportunity to reject the regulations?


That follows, of course, because all statutory instruments are subject to the Negative Resolution procedure, if not to Affirmative Resolution. The noble Lord has only to look at them and put down a Motion. I cannot promise that the Government will put down a Motion to negative their own regulations that would lead to a Gilbertian situation.


I am quite content to see the questionnaire in the regulations submitted, and if we do not like them we will raise the matter again.


I am much obliged to the noble Viscount. I hope he does not feel that I have dealt with it in an unconscientious way.

On Question, Motion agreed to.