HC Deb 31 March 1999 vol 328 cc800-1W
Mrs. Ray Michie

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland (1) what factors underlay the decision not to include a question about religious affiliation in the 2001 census form in Scotland; [79367]

(2) what representations he has received from church and ethnic minority groups requesting a question about religious affiliation in the 2001 census form in Scotland. [79368]

Mr. McLeish

The Government's proposals for the 2001 Census of Population set out in the White Paper (CM 4253) published on 4 March were made after extensive consultation. Potential users were asked to submit business cases setting out the uses and value of collecting information from the Census for each topic. The criteria against which these cases were judged included an assessment of the resources that are distributed on the basis of the information, the value of the information for very small areas (which the Census in particular can provide), the existence or otherwise of alternative sources, the acceptability of the question to the form-filler, the quality of the information obtained, and the costs of collection.

The main reason for the proposal not to include a question about religious affiliation in Scotland was that no strong case has been made by users in central and local government or elsewhere that the uses to which information from such a question would be put require a Census question (rather than obtaining the information from alternative approaches such as a sample survey). A change in primary legislation would also be required to ask a religion question in Scotland.

Although, during consultation, Action of Churches Together in Scotland and the Scottish Council for Racial Equality indicated that they would like to see a religion question in the Census, a strong case was not established.

Since publication of the Government's proposals, representations have been received from Bailie Bashir Maan and Councillor Hanzala Malik, both of Glasgow City Council and the latter in his role as Chairperson of the West of Scotland Community Relations Council.

Final decisions on the content of the Census in Scotland will be for the Scottish Parliament.

From 1 July 1999, this will be a matter for the Scottish Parliament.