House of Lords
Lord Laird (UUP)
To ask Her Majesty's Government why the 2011 census question on ethnic group in England and Wales had five options for "White" when the Scottish version had nine options which included Polish, and has a different wording for Gypsy or Irish Traveller which excludes the word "Irish"; and how overall United Kingdom figures will be calculated and displayed given those differences.
Lord Taylor of Holbeach (Whip, House of Lords; Conservative)
The information requested falls within the responsibility of the UK Statistics Authority. I have asked the authority to reply.
As Director General for the Office for National Statistics (ONS) I have been asked to reply to your recent question asking why the 2011 census question on ethnic group on England and Wales had five options for "White" when the Scottish version had nine options which included Polish, and has a different wording for Gypsy and Irish Traveller which excludes the word "Irish", and how overall United Kingdom figures will be calculated and displayed given those differences. (HL7713)
In England and Wales the form and content of the ethnicity questions have resulted from extensive consultation with users and other key stakeholders as part of a formal consultation exercise on census topics generally in 2005, and a further consultation focused on ethnicity, identity, language and religion issues from November 2006 to March 2007, including a round of public meetings. This consultation aimed to determine not only requirements for information but also changing public attitudes towards the acceptability of the question among particular ethnic minority communities.
In Scotland, a wide-ranging review of the way that ethnicity was classified was undertaken following the 2001 census, to ensure the development of a classification for use in Scottish surveys that reflected modern circumstances, met users' information needs and had broad community support. The Scottish Government worked in partnership with the General Register Office for Scotland to conduct the review. The result was an ethnicity classification recommended for use in Scottish surveys and Scotland's 2011 census.
Some amendments were then made to the classification for use in the census in Scotland, following parliamentary consideration of the draft Census (Scotland) Act, in April 2010. These changes included, in the "White" category, the replacement of separate tick boxes for English, Welsh and Northern Irish, with an "Other British" tick box. As a result, the "White" category in Scotland's 2011 census ethnic group question has six tick boxes.
While the National Statistician and the Registrar General for Scotland have sought to retain as much comparability in questionnaire design and question wording for the censuses in England and Wales and in Scotland, some small variations must inevitably occur to reflect significant socio-demographic differences and user requirements north and south of the border. The ethnicity question is a good example of where such differences have occurred in each census since it was first introduced in 1991.
The "White" categories are broadly equivalent, only differing, in Scotland, in the addition of a "Polish" category-where this group form a significantly larger proportion of the ethnic minority population than in England and Wales, justifying a separate tick box-and a separate category for "Scottish" to provide consistency with the 2001 question. The omission of "Irish" from the title of the new "Gypsy/Traveller" group reflected particular sensitivities to the wording of this category in Scotland.
Consultation with users is currently under way to determine the scope and detail of the statistical outputs to be produced including those for a set of harmonised UK tabulations. However, although slightly different forms of the question are being adopted. the variants will, nevertheless, as noted in the White Paper Helping to Shape Tomorrow, allow statistics to be produced which will be broadly comparable both throughout the UK and with statistics from the 2001 census.