HC Deb 10 January 2000 vol 342 cc103-4W
Ms Lawrence

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer when the draft Census Order for England and Wales will be laid before Parliament, if questions on religion, ethnic group and income are to be included in the proposed content of the Census; and if he will make a statement. [104428]

Miss Melanie Johnson

The Draft Order in Council providing for a Census to be taken in England and Wales on Sunday 29 April 2001 has today been laid before Parliament. This Order specifies the persons by whom and with respect to whom returns are to be made and the topics on which questions are to be asked.

The Government's proposals for the 2001 census were published in a White Paper (Cm 4253) in March this year. All the topics that were then proposed for England and Wales are included in the draft Order with the exception of religion. A change to the Census Act 1920 is necessary to permit a question on religion to be asked. A Bill to amend the Census Act to this effect was introduced in the House of Lords on 16 December 1999. If this is passed in time it is planned to include a question in the 2001 Census.

A question on ethnic group is proposed in the Draft Census Order. The ethnic group question was one of the main successes of the 1991 Census, and the question for the forthcoming census has since been extensively researched and tested, both to meet users' requirements for additional information about people of mixed origin and sub-groups within the "White" population, particularly the "Irish", and to be as acceptable as possible to respondents. The new response categories are to provide optimum comparability with information from the 1991 Census question while, at the same time, attempting to improve response to the question among the many different ethnic minority communities.

Consultation with users about requirements for information from the census has indicated that there is widespread support for the inclusion of an income question from key Government Departments, local government and others. But the strength of such requirements must be balanced against the possible public disquiet about the acceptability of such a question in a compulsory Census, the doubts about the reliability of the information collected, and the availability of possible alternative sources of the information. The Draft Order for England and Wales therefore does not include an income question.

A copy of the 2001 Census Form will be included as part of the Census Regulations to be made following the Census Order.

As the Census is a devolved issue, similar arrangements are being made in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Forward to