Census (Amendment) Bill [Lords] — Particulars in respect of religion may be required — 26 Jul 2000

As amended in the Standing Committee, considered.

I beg to move amendment No. 1, in page 1, line 12, after "religion", insert--

'or for giving a false answer to that question'.

Amend the Census Act 1920 to enable particulars to be required in respect of religion.

Not doing something which statute requires you to do is unlawful.

The Bill in its present form is in my view unconstitutional. Parliament cannot, without flouting constitutional principle, adopt the Bill in its present form.

But if it does, and if the Courts . . . have to recognise it as an Act of Parliament, that will not be the end of the matter. Apart from any possible effect of the Human Rights Act from October onwards, the draft Census Order, when available (prescribing the Census questions, including the religious questions) will be challengeable by judicial review--preferably by challenge to the decision to prescribe the questions, and preferably before any approving resolution of either House of Parliament.

it has been shown that 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.]

Underneath the question will appear the statement "This question is voluntary".--[ Official Report, Standing Committee D , 5 July 2000; c. 13.]

these matters have been checked.--[ Official Report, Standing Committee D , 5 July 2000; c. 16.]

It would not be lawful to state on the form that the question was voluntary as the Minister proposes (in Standing Committee). As there is no power under the Act, as amended by the Bill in its present form, to include voluntary questions, to provide for such a statement in regulations would be ultra vires, the statement itself on the form would be unlawful and both would therefore be open to challenge by way of judicial review.

Were the Government to persist in describing the questions as voluntary, which we are confident would be ultra vires, it would be laying itself open to an adverse judicial review decision at any time before the census.

The Institute for Jewish Policy Research, in a recent paper on the issue, recommends that Britain should adopt the practice, as in the few other countries where such a question is asked, of making it voluntary. That would certainly remove the main objection to the Bill.

with respect to the forms to be used in the taking of a census.

Are those the correct legal powers that the Minister will use to make those regulations? This important point was raised earlier by the hon. Member for Chichester (Mr. Tyrie).

with respect to the forms to be used in the taking of a census.

the Census Act 1920 to enable particulars to be required.

Question put, That the amendment be made:--

The Committee divided: Ayes 184, Noes 331.

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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 (No)Minority (Aye)BothTurnout
Con1 136 (+2 tell)086.9%
Lab330 (+2 tell) 0079.8%
LDem0 43091.5%
PC0 3075.0%
UUP0 3033.3%
Total:331 185081.8%

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

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Mr Jonathan SayeedMid BedfordshireConno

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