My Lords, my noble and learned friend’s amendment goes a long way to protect the public from some of the ambiguities of these questions. If the question is optional and one does not need to answer it, one does not have to resolve the ambiguities, which are considerable on both halves. That is to say, it is not clear to me that every member of the public will understand what is covered by the term “sexual orientation”. I ask myself: is chastity a sexual orientation? Is paedophilia? I could name some nastier things, but that will do.
Equally, the term “gender identity” is not entirely clear for members of the public: do we mean what someone is or what they think they are? Public discussions of notions of identity have shifted a lot in the past 30 years. It seems unfortunate to put into a census form a highly disputed sociological term of art without clarifying what is meant by it. I therefore think it is a splendid thing to make both questions voluntary. I hope many people, such as myself, will be a bit hesitant about answering them.