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Census: Religion

Volume 498: debated on Thursday 29 October 2009

To ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office what account was taken of the process and results of the 2001 Census in deciding which religions to list on the 2011 Census; what criteria were used to determine the list; and if she will make a statement. (295047)

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 recent Parliamentary Question asking what account was taken of the process and results of the 2001 Census in deciding which religions to list on the 2011 Census; and what criteria were used to determine the list. (295047)

The religion question was introduced in the 2001 Census as a voluntary question and has been designed to collect information on religious affiliation, which is required by many users of census statistics for monitoring equality and planning of services.

Question development for the 2011 Census began in 2005 and since then the Office for National Statistics (ONS) has consulted and engaged with a large number of census users including those from central, regional and local government, academia, community groups and organisations to determine their requirements for topics and questions in the 2011 Census. In addition, a. detailed specific consultation was conducted in 2006/7 to refine the user requirements for information on ethnic group, national identity, religion and language questions for the 2011 Census. As a suite of questions they provide the opportunity for individual respondents to indicate their identity in the ways they consider most appropriate, and which ONS will be able to measure in the most statistically relevant way to meet the expressed needs of users. Consultation revealed a high demand for a religion question and the majority of responses indicated a requirement for comparability with the 2001 Census question.

The tick-box categories used in the 2001 Census continue to represent the largest religious groups and have been repeated in all testing of the religion question. The ‘none’ tick-box has been renamed ‘no religion’ and been put first in the list to ensure that people who do not have a religious affiliation are aware that the question provides an appropriate response category. There is insufficient space on the questionnaire to include additional tick-boxes. However, Census outputs based on the write-in answers for those religions not specifically identified by tick boxes will be produced to meet user requirements. Consultation on the form and content of outputs from the 2011 Census is now underway.

The Draft Census (England and Wales) Order setting out the information to be collected in the 2011 Census was laid before Parliament on 21 October. To coincide with the laying of the Census Order, additional material covering the recommendations for questions to be asked in the 2011 Census has been placed on the census website at: