§ Mr. Teddy Taylor
To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will make a statement explaining the procedures under which the questions in the census form are determined; what is the specific purpose of various questions in the current census; and if he will take steps to ensure that future census forms take account of the right of privacy of individuals in society.
§ Mrs. Virginia Bottomley
An account of the consultation and testing procedures, the topics covered and the uses to which the statistics on each topic will be put is given 369W in paragraphs 9 to 23 of the White Paper 1991 Census of Population, Cm. 430, of July 1988, which set out the Government's proposals. An account is also given, at paragraph 24, of the topics that were considered but excluded as a result of the selection process.
The importance of privacy is a prime consideration when assessing the public acceptability of census questions. This, and the need to keep the census form to an acceptable length, will continue to be key considerations in planning any future census, as will, of course, the need to keep private the personal information people put on their forms. The Census Act 1920 strengthened by the Census (Confidentiality) Act of earlier this year, gives legal protection to the confidentiality of personal census information.