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Written Statements

Volume 688: debated on Wednesday 3 February 2021

Written Statements

Wednesday 3 February 2021

Cabinet Office

Census 2021: England and Wales

The census for England and Wales is scheduled to take place on 21 March 2021. The census is delivered for the UK Government and the Welsh Government by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), based on its recommendations published in the December 2018 White Paper “Help Shape Our Future”[CM 9745].

The information the census provides on the population and their characteristics, education, religion, ethnicity, working life and health ensures that decisions made by national and local government, community groups, charities and business are based on the best information possible. This enables a wide range of services and future planning to better serve communities and individuals across England and Wales.

This will be a digital-first census answered primarily online. The ONS has a target for online completion of 75%. People will be encouraged to respond online if they can on their mobile phones, laptops, PCs or tablets. Help will be available for those who need assistance, and members of the public who prefer to complete a paper form will be able to do so.

In the context of the coronavirus (covid-19) pandemic, the safety of the public and the census field force is of the utmost importance to the Government and the ONS. The ONS has designed Census 2021 to be simple, straightforward and safe to complete, to ensure that everyone can be safely counted. Its assessment is that Census 2021 can be carried out safely and securely with the flexibility built into its operation to respond to any changes in risk levels or guidance. The main census field operation will begin only after census day. Field staff will never enter people’s houses; they will be supplied with PPE, will always be socially distanced and will work in line with all Government guidance.

The ONS has already launched its schools campaign; its national media campaign will be launched in the coming weeks telling people that Census 2021 is coming and the benefits of the census. On 22 January, the ONS published a statement on the importance of going ahead with the census in March 2021 and how they plan to do this safely for the public and census staff.

This statement is available on the ONS website: https://www.ons.gov.uk/news/statementsandletters/census2021andcoronavirus

Census plans have often had to anticipate and respond to events; for example, 20 years ago the census was delivered effectively during the foot and mouth crisis.

Other countries have been able to carry out their census activities during the pandemic—for example, the USA. The ONS has learnt valuable lessons from these experiences.

Following the ONS’s advice, the Government are confident that Census 2021 will be successful and provide a wealth of data reflecting the society we live in today, enabling national and local government, community groups, charities and businesses to better serve communities and individuals across England and Wales.

The census in Northern Ireland will take place at the same time as England and Wales; the census in Scotland will take place in March 2022 following the decision taken by the Scottish Government last year.

[HCWS755]

Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy

Subsidy Control: Designing a New Approach for the UK

The Government are today publishing a consultation on “Subsidy control—Designing a new approach for the UK”. The consultation period will last for eight weeks.

Now that we have left the EU, the UK has the freedom to design our own subsidy control regime that is tailored to the UK’s national interests. The new system, which will be the long-term replacement for the EU’s prescriptive state aid regime, will be designed to be more flexible, agile and tailored to support business growth and innovation as well as maintain a competitive market economy and protect the UK internal market. It will better enable the Government to deliver on key priorities such as levelling up economic growth in the regions, tackling climate change, as well as supporting our economic recovery as we build back better from the covid-19 pandemic.

Unlike the EU’s state aid rules, which were designed for the particular circumstances of the EU, our own bespoke regime should work for the specific needs of the UK economy whilst also meeting our international commitments. Under the proposed UK system, local authorities, public bodies and the devolved Administrations in Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast will be empowered to design taxpayer subsidies by following a set of UK-wide principles. These principles will ensure subsidies are designed to deliver strong benefits and good value for money for the UK taxpayer, while being awarded in a timely and effective way.

This consultation invites views from businesses, civil society, think tanks, academics, public authorities, and the devolved Administrations to ensure our new approach works for the UK economy and supports businesses and jobs in every part of the country. The Government are seeking views on any additions to the subsidy control principles that will underpin the regime, the appropriate role for an independent body within the new system and how best to ensure that subsidies deliver strong benefits, while minimising the risk from potentially harmful and distortive subsidies.

Subject to the outcomes of this consultation, the Government will bring forward primary legislation to establish in domestic law a system of subsidy control that works throughout the UK.

I will place copies of the consultation in the Libraries of both Houses, and it can also be found on gov.uk.

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Treasury

Non-domestic Rates: Billing Authorities

Local Government is responsible for the administration of non-domestic rates in England. As part of this function, billing authorities will shortly begin preparing to issue annual rates bills to businesses. Nevertheless, as authorities will be aware, my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer will make the Budget statement on 3 March 2021. The Budget will set out the next phase of the Government’s plans to tackle the virus, protect jobs and support business. Billing authorities in England should therefore consider issuing business rates bills after the Chancellor has set out his plan at the Budget.

The Government recognise the crucial work local authorities continue to do to support the pandemic response; by their taking this action, they believe it is in the public interest to avoid any potential confusion for businesses and to avoid the cost of having to re-bill businesses in light of any measures that may be included in the Budget.

[HCWS756]