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Volume 497: debated on Tuesday 13 October 2009

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

Letter from Jil Matheson, dated October 2009:

As National Statistician I have been asked to reply to your Parliamentary Question asking how many Tamils live in the United Kingdom. (291528).

The most reliable data on the number of people identifying as Tamil come from the 2001 Censuses in England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland - the numbers of people identifying in more recent surveys are too small to produce reliable estimates. Information for Scotland and Northern Ireland has been provided by their respective Registrars General.

None of the 2001 UK. censuses included a ‘Tamil’ tick-box in their ethnic group questions although respondents had the option to give an identity of their choice in one of the write-in spaces provided, if they did not believe that any the given options was appropriate.

A total of 5,818 people in the UK used the write-in option to describe their ethnic group as ‘Tamil’ and a further 68,524 people wrote in that their ethnic group was ‘Sri Lankan’. It is not known how many of these Sri Lankans also have a Tamil identity.

Furthermore all the UK censuses included an ‘Indian’ pre-designated tick-box, which some respondents may have ticked without providing further information.