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Census: BSL

Volume 474: debated on Tuesday 22 April 2008

To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster if he will consider the merits of identifying users of British sign language as part of the next census. (200177)

The information requested falls within the responsibility of the UK Statistics Authority. I have asked the authority to reply.

Letter from Karen Dunnell, dated 21 April 2008:

As National Statistician I have been asked to reply to your recent question asking the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster if he will consider the merits of identifying users of British Sign Language (BSL) as part of the next Census. (200177)

Consultation with users on their requirements for information from the 2011 Census has identified a demand for a language question to provide information to improve resource allocation at the national and local level and to inform service provision of, for example, the need for translation and interpreter services. There was also some demand expressed for information on the use of specific languages, including BSL. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) has subsequently tested a number of variants of a language question, with a view to developing a concise question which is easily understood by respondents and gives reliable results. ONS are currently testing a question on main language used, including BSL through a write-in facility.

A White Paper setting out the proposals for the 2011 Census is scheduled to be published at the end of 2008. However it will not be possible to confirm what questions and response categories are to be included in the 2011 Census until the consultation and question testing programme is complete and formal approval is given by Parliament in 2010.