Amendment 1

Part of Census (Return Particulars and Removal of Penalties) Bill [HL] - Report – in the House of Lords at 3:45 pm on 18th June 2019.

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Photo of Baroness Barker Baroness Barker Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Voluntary Sector) 3:45 pm, 18th June 2019

My Lords, I beg to differ with the noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge: I think these are riveting matters. This debate has shown exactly why that is so, because they are not easy. I am very glad that he has in effect gone back to what some of us said right at the beginning of Second Reading: that the importance is not what is in the Bill but what is on the form that results from this piece of legislation. That is what we have been driving at, not only in the debates in your Lordships’ House, but also in the discussions we have had with civil servants from different parts of government and from people within the community, over a number of very interesting and informative sessions.

I say to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay, regarding his problems with the DVLA, welcome to the world of some of the minority groups in this country, who are faced with forms that they wish to answer truthfully but find doing so extremely difficult. It is always a joy to listen to the noble Baroness, Lady O’Neill. I wish she could have been present for some of the discussions that we had with the community groups, the ONS and the civil servants, who are in the middle of extensive testing, not just of the understanding of people who are in these groups and who are familiar with these terms, but with people who are not.

This is something which by its nature evolves over time, and the language within it changes over time; I guess that every 10 years there is something new. We should not be critical of that, but simply do our job in Parliament, which is to oversee those changes and make them as good as we possibly can. I have said this before and think it is worth saying again: the taking of a census is an important moment in our civic life. I know there are those who wish to dispense with it, who make an argument that we can get much of the information in other ways. I understand that to an extent, but nevertheless this is one time when the Government engage with all citizens and ask them questions about themselves. I understand that it is flawed—I suspect that it always will be—but the noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge, has got us to the point we said we wanted to be at, where we will get the most data in the easiest and most efficient way from the greatest number of people. If we send the Bill to the Commons in this state, we will have done a good job.