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

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 2:41 pm on 17th July 2019.

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Photo of Chris Matheson Chris Matheson Shadow Minister (Cabinet Office) 2:41 pm, 17th July 2019

My hon. Friend has been pushing this issue with perseverance and resilience. Representations have been made to the Minister by those and other religions and ethnic groups. It may well be that this issue is considered in Committee or on Report, or, if it is not included in the scope of the Bill, then later on when we come to the census. I look forward to reading any proposals my hon. Friend brings forward.

Returning to the homeless count, I am grateful to the Minister for assurances that the ONS will work with organisations representing LGBT people and charities, to locate hard-to-reach communities and ensure they are given the opportunity to complete the census. I understand that the ONS is organising both national and local campaigns to highlight that everyone in England and Wales should complete the census. Community engagement programmes will allow field teams to specifically target hard-to-reach communities and help minority groups with census completion.

Working with stakeholders throughout this process is vital, particularly when it comes to drafting specific questions for the census. The drafting of the questions and the accompanying guidance must be subject to extensive consultation with a wide range of stakeholders from across the LGBT community and women’s groups. I understand that my noble Friend Baroness Hayter made that important point via an amendment in the other place.

We are pleased to support the Bill, which is a step forward in the fight for LGBT+ recognition, and to ensure that the mirror we hold up to ourselves in the form of the census portrays an accurate reflection of all parts of our nation. It is vital that thorough consultation follows the passage of the Bill to ensure that these words are carried forward into action. Given the richness and range of data provided by a survey of this size, the 2021 census provides us with an exciting opportunity to gather accurate data about minority communities, and to plan services and distribute resources accordingly.