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UK Statistics Authority

Volume 651: debated on Monday 17 December 2018

My right hon. Friend Lord Young of Cookham made the following written statement on Friday 14 November:

The twenty-second national census will be conducted in March 2021, across the United Kingdom. The 2021 Census is about collecting information to help build a country that works for everyone, and the results will reflect everyone in our society. To build a stronger, fairer and more caring society and to tackle injustices, we need reliable information on the number and characteristics of people and households to enable a wide range of services and future planning to be supported.

Correspondingly, Government are pleased to present to Parliament a White Paper “Help Shape our Future: The 2021 Census of Population and Housing in England and Wales” [Cm 9745], which sets out the UK Statistics Authority’s detailed proposals for the 2021 census in England and Wales. The Government propose that, subject to Parliamentary approval, the next census of population should be taken on 21 March 2021.

The Government rely on high quality data to make decisions which affect everyone in this country. The census is one of the key data collections where everyone will be able to have their say in 2021 about how they live so that decisions can be made to reflect the society of 2021 and beyond. The Government will use the information to inform policy, to plan public services to meet the needs of today’s society. Census data are also widely used by businesses, local authorities, health authorities, and others to help them plan their services.

The White Paper sets out the strategic aims for the census, explains the need for it, sets out the content and how it will be conducted and deals with matters of public interest such as data security and confidentiality. The White Paper also sets out the UK Statistics Authority’s proposals for the future of population statistics after 2021.

Following previous consultation, the White Paper proposes a new question on Armed Forces veterans which will give support to those who serve their country so well. There will also be new questions on sexual orientation and gender identity to reflect a 21st century society, although nobody will need to tell us their sexual orientation or gender identity if they do not want to. Ministers have decided the right not to respond to these latter two new questions should be made clear in legislation in due course, prior to the census taking place. This mirrors the legal approach taken in 2000 by Parliament when the question on religion was introduced in the 2001 census.

This White Paper sets out the proposals for a census in England and Wales in 2021. The proposed date for the census has been considered collectively across the three census offices in the UK (in England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland). The statistical offices of England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland are working together to ensure the production of harmonised statistics.

The UK Statistics Authority plans to hold a census rehearsal in October 2019. After consultation with the Welsh Ministers, the Government will lay before Parliament an Order in Council for approval in accordance with the Census Act 1920.

Copies of the White Paper are available from the Vote Office, on, and have also been placed in the Libraries of both Houses. The White Paper is also being presented to the National Assembly for Wales.