Amendment of the Census Act 1920

Census (Return Particulars and Removal of Penalties) Bill [Lords] – in the House of Commons at 8:34 pm on 7th October 2019.

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Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Photo of Eleanor Laing Eleanor Laing Deputy Speaker (First Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means)

With this it will be convenient to discuss clauses 2 and 3.

Photo of Kevin Foster Kevin Foster Assistant Whip, The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales, The Parliamentary Secretary, Cabinet Office 8:37 pm, 7th October 2019

I will not prolong this part of our debate. The purpose of the clause is simple. It amends the Census Act 1920 in respect of England and Wales to remove the penalty for not responding to census questions on sexual orientation and gender identity. This means that those questions will be voluntary. As I am sure hon. Members will recall, this reflects the approach taken by the Census (Amendment) Act 2000, which removed the penalty attaching to a failure to answer a question on religion in the census.

Clause 2 amends the Census Act (Northern Ireland) 1969 to remove the penalty for not responding to census questions on sexual orientation and gender identity, in order to replicate the changes that we are making in law for England and Wales. The power to include questions on sexual orientation and gender identity already exists under the Northern Ireland legislation. Clause 2 does not create new powers to ask those questions; it simply ensures that if they were asked in a future census in Northern Ireland, they would be voluntary.

Finally, clause 3 sets out the territorial extent, commencement and short title of the Bill. The territorial extent of the Bill is England, Wales and Northern Ireland. The Bill does not extend to Scotland, where the matter is devolved and where the Scottish Parliament is dealing with the relevant legislation.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 1 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clauses 2 and 3 ordered to stand part of the Bill.