HC Deb 13 April 1981 vol 3 c53W
Mr. Alton

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services whether he will make it his policy that elderly people refusing to complete the census forms will not be prosecuted, in view of the fact that many such people are scared to open their doors to strangers.

Sir George Young

No, but persons afraid to open their doors to strangers can ask for an authority card to be displayed, for example, at the window or can seek confirmation that the caller is an authentic census enumerator or census officer through a friend or neighbour.

Any case of refusal will be considered in the light of the information available about the particular circumstances.

Mr. Arthur Lewis

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services to what extent census enumerators have advised householders and to what extent they have acted upon the advice, that as the house will be empty when the enumerator calls back to collect the form to leave it on the step, attached to the letter box or hand it to the next door neighbour; and how this advice coincides with the printed statement on the assurance of complete confidentiality.

Sir George Young

Enumerators have been instructed to make as many calls as practicable at different times in order to collect the completed forms. They have not been instructed to advise householders to leave completed census forms on door-steps, attached to letter-boxes or with neighbours. If the householder offers to leave a completed return with a neighbour, the enumerator is under instructions to supply an envelope.

In such a large operation conducted over a short period using temporary fee-paid staff with several steps of delegation, it is not possible to be sure of the extent to which such advice may or may not have been given or taken.

The assurances of confidentiality apply only after the census forms have been put in the hands of the enumerators and other members of the staff of the census offices.