Census (Return Particulars and Removal of Penalties) Bill [Lords]

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 2:37 pm on 17th July 2019.

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Photo of Brandon Lewis Brandon Lewis Minister without Portfolio , Party Chair, Conservative Party 2:37 pm, 17th July 2019

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his point, but I would just say that everybody who wishes to identify, for example, as Jain in the census will be able to do so. They will be able to use the write-in option and a new search-as-you-type facility. The Jain populations are concentrated in a small number of local authorities, which we know, and the ONS has committed to work with local groups and organisations to ensure that anyone who wishes to identify as Jain knows how to do so.

First, the ONS has committed to ensure that the voluntary nature of the questions on sexual orientation and gender identity are made clear in its design for the census forms in England and Wales—both on the front pages of the forms, and alongside the questions themselves.

Secondly, respondents will be provided with a unique access code to the online census, and anyone aged 16 years and over will be able to request a code, or paper form if answering offline, who wishes to respond privately. This will enable people to answer the census, including these two questions, without having to tell the person completing the household form that they have done so. Any individual answers will override any submitted on the household form. That is vital to protect people’s privacy.

Thirdly, census confidentiality remains of the utmost importance. All personal data collected by the census will be stored confidentially and not released for 100 years. This Bill delivers on the White Paper’s proposals to include new questions on sexual orientation and gender identity in the 2021 census, and on a voluntary basis. I urge all Members to join me in supporting this simple and worthwhile legislation, and I commend this Bill to the House.