Census (Amendment) Bill [Lords] — 20 Jun 2000

Order for Second Reading read.

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

The purpose of the Bill is to make a modest change to the Census Act 1920 so that a question on religious affiliation can be included in the next census of population in England and Wales in April 2001. This is necessary because, these days, many more people choose to identify themselves in respect of their religion or their culture, but there are no reliable figures for ethnic sub-groups or for religion. The 2001 census provides a unique opportunity to collect information from groups who increasingly prefer to identify themselves primarily in this way.

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

In Wales the words "Church in Wales" will be substituted for the words "Church of England" within the Christian category.

Governments do not usually find time for private Members' Bills.

However, the Bill is believed to be uncontroversial.

went through the House of Lords without any difficulty.

The issue it addresses was raised after the main census legislation had gone through.

How careless--the Government had obviously taken their eye off the ball. She added that

there was no reason to anticipate that there would be a difficulty in the House of Commons.

The matter is one in which there is considerable public interest--[ Official Report , 15 June 2000; Vol. 351, c. 1106.]

Central government, local and health authorities, commercial business and the professions need reliable information on the number and characteristics of people and households if they are to conduct many of their activities effectively.

The Government, in particular, needs this kind of information to form policy, to plan services for specific groups of people and to distribute resources effectively to local and health authorities to enable them to direct resources to where they are needed.

If you prick us, do we not bleed?

Surely people are human beings whether they are Jewish, Hindu, Christian or anything else. In health terms, what, precisely, is the difference?

The topics proposed for the Census are those that have been shown to be most needed by central and local government, the health service, academics, businesses and professional organisations.

to the question would help provide information which would supplement the output from the ethnic group question by identifying ethnic minority sub-groups, particularly those originating from the Indian sub-continent. In turn, this will provide baseline figures against which the Government can monitor possible racial disadvantage and social exclusion within particular minority groups.

no person shall be liable to a penalty . . . for refusing or neglecting to state any particulars . . .

Completion of the Census form is compulsory under the Census Act 1920. If you refuse to complete it, or give false information, you may be liable to a fine. This liability does not apply to Question 10 on religion.

The compulsory requirement to provide information to a census (including sex, marital status, place of birth)

was found to be an interference with private and family life.

Church of England, Catholic, Protestant and all other Christian denominations.

a member or follower of any of the western Christian Churches that are separate from the Roman Catholic Church in accordance with the principles of the Reformation.

I have reflected with care on what your Lordships have had to say . . . I feel that we should take the arguments about a voluntary question seriously. In the interests of progressing the matter smoothly, and so that, as the noble Earl and other noble Lords wished, the Bill may pass to another place in a fit condition, I am proposing an amendment which would have the effect of removing the liability to a penalty under Section 8 of the Census Act--[ Official Report, House of Lords , 3 February 2000; Vol. 609, c. 364.]

be the most consoling gratification to every lover of his country.

Government, local and health authorities, commercial businesses and the professions need reliable information on the number and characteristics of people and households if they are to conduct many of their activities effectively. This need is currently best met by conducting a census every ten years covering the whole of the population, and by updating the population estimates each year between censuses using data from . . . births, marriages and deaths . . . and . . . estimates of migration.

However, over time, such data, especially on migration, accumulate inaccuracies, and a regular census is necessary to provide information for revising the annual population estimates.

there will be a slight increase in the number of questions compared with the 1991 Census.

significant changes from 1991 in the questions proposed are: new individual questions on general health, provision of unpaid personal care, time since last paid employment, size of employer's organisation

the Government will continue to consider whether or not to include a question on income, having regard to the risks to the Census as a whole in so doing . . . the Government will make final proposals on whether or not the question should be included in the Census itself once research into possible means of securing relevant information from alternative sources has been completed.

no person shall be liable to a penalty under subsection (1) for refusing or neglecting to state any particulars in respect of religion.

making a question voluntary seriously affects the response not only to the question itself where response bias could devalue the information obtained, but also as regards other questions because people are confused about some questions being voluntary and others being compulsory.--[ Official Report, House of Lords , 27 January 2000; Vol. 608, c. 1717.]

Question put, That the Bill be now read a Second time:--

The House divided: Ayes 194, Noes 10.

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Party Summary

Votes by party, red entries are votes against the majority for that party.

What is Tell? '+1 tell' means that in addition one member of that party was a teller for that division lobby.

What are Boths? An MP can vote both aye and no in the same division. The boths page explains this.

What is Turnout? This is measured against the total membership of the party at the time of the vote.

PartyMajority (Aye)Minority (No)BothTurnout
Con8 9 (+2 tell)011.9%
Lab178 (+2 tell) 0043.4%
LDem6 1014.9%
PC1 0025.0%
UUP1 0011.1%
Total:194 10032.8%

Rebel Voters - sorted by party

MPs for which their vote in this division differed from the majority vote of their party. You can see all votes in this division, or every eligible MP who could have voted in this division

Sort by: Name | Constituency | Party | Vote

Peter AtkinsonHexhamConaye
Mr Stephen DayCheadleConaye
John HayesSouth Holland and The DeepingsCon (front bench)aye
Oliver HealdNorth East HertfordshireCon (front bench)aye
David LidingtonAylesburyCon (front bench)aye
Richard OttawayCroydon SouthCon (front bench)aye
John RandallUxbridgeCon (front bench)aye
Mr Jonathan SayeedMid BedfordshireConaye
Dr Jenny TongeRichmond ParkLDemno

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