Cornish National Identity: 2021 Census

Part of Women and Equalities Committee – in the House of Commons at 10:00 pm on 11th June 2018.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Chloe Smith Chloe Smith The Parliamentary Secretary, Cabinet Office, Assistant Whip 10:00 pm, 11th June 2018

I take that point. The ONS is listening carefully to this debate, which is timely because it gives us a further opportunity to hear and take into account the views of Cornish hon. Members and the constituents for whom they speak so well tonight.

As I say, the ONS will consider all the evidence to decide how best to gather the data. We are here in a common goal—to try to get to the root of any inequalities or unfairness in society, for which we need quality data. We generally expect better data now, and an online census will bring other benefits. If I may illustrate why I say that we will have a much greater online service this year than 10 years ago, in 2011, 17% of census returns were made online. In 2021, we will look to achieve a 75% online return rate. It should be easier and quicker for individuals, and is much more cost-effective than completion and return of a paper form. I hope that it will also serve to encourage more completion among my hon. Friends’ constituents. The ONS will provide detailed assistance to the public to encourage online completion, including a dedicated census contact centre, engagement with community groups, and work by census field staff on the doorstep.

Most importantly for Cornish national identity, the 2021 census will for the first time offer a bespoke analytical product to the Cornish. That really will be a step towards our shared goal of better data about the community, gathered in ways that may be new to those who have made this argument over the years. The core goal is to get the data and put it to use—the practicality that Ben Lake mentioned. That is what will, I hope, allow us to improve the measurement of the socioeconomic conditions and the educational, health and housing outcomes of those who have identified as Cornish and native Cornish speakers. As I outlined, that will be hugely supported by ongoing engagement to ensure that the analysis is helpful to the specific needs of Cornwall Council and that it offers a genuine improvement in our understanding of what it means to be Cornish. That will be provided regardless of whether there is a tick-box solution or a write-in and “search as you type” solution.

I pay tribute again to my hon. Friend the Member for St Austell and Newquay for his campaigning ability in raising this matter. My hon. Friends, this team of six parliamentarians and local champions, have spoken for Cornwall loudly and clearly. They have come here tonight with a strong voice to express what it means to Cornwall for this data to come back from the census. I hope that in return I have been able to explain the position of the independent ONS, and to convey that the Government recognise and value Cornwall. I hope the 2021 census will allow the national identity to be fully expressed.

Question put and agreed to.

House adjourned.