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2011 Census proposed questions: The Independent, the Daily Mail and the Daily Express, 26 and 29 October 2009

The Independent, the Daily Mail and the Daily Express criticised proposals for the 2011 Census to collect information on bedrooms and overnight visitors. ONS officials wrote to explain why these questions have been proposed for inclusion.

Letter to The Independent, 26 October 2009 

In response to 'Kiss and tell: the 2011 census wants to know your sleeping partner' (26 October), I write to clarify the reasons for the inclusion of specific questions in the proposals for the 2011 Census.

The primary purpose of the census is to produce accurate population estimates. These will underpin a myriad of important funding and planning decisions during the next decade, at national and local level.

Proposed questions about the number of bedrooms and the number of people who live in a household will allow local councils to establish whether accommodation in their area is overcrowded. Plans to meet any additional housing needs can then be better defined for that area.

Quite separately, the proposed questions also include details of visitors on census night to ensure that people away from home are included in the census, even if they are not recorded on their home questionnaire. This will enable more accurate estimates of the whole population to facilitate effective planning and funding decisions.

The personal information that people provide on a census questionnaire is completely confidential and is protected by law. Personal census data is kept confidential for 100 years. No personal census information is shared with other government departments or local authorities. On release after 100 years, census information can then provide a fascinating insight for family historians and social researchers.

Yours faithfully

Jil Matheson
National Statistician

 
Letter to the Daily Mail, 26 October 2009

Sir,

I write to clarify the reasons for the inclusion of specific questions in the proposals for the 2011 Census.

The primary purpose of the census is to produce accurate population estimates. These will underpin a myriad of important funding and planning decisions during the next decade, at national and local level.

Proposed questions about the number of bedrooms and the number of people who live in a household will allow local councils to establish whether accommodation in their area is overcrowded. Plans to meet any additional housing needs can then be better defined for that area.

Quite separately, the proposed questions also include details of visitors on census night to ensure that people away from home are included in the census, even if they are not recorded on their home questionnaire. This will enable more accurate estimates of the whole population to facilitate effective planning and funding decisions.

The personal information that people provide on a census questionnaire is completely confidential and is protected by law. Personal census data is kept confidential for 100 years. No personal census information is shared with other government departments or local authorities. On release after 100 years, census information can then provide a fascinating insight for family historians and social researchers.

Yours faithfully

Jil Matheson
National Statistician

 
Letter to the Daily Express, 29 October 2009 

Dear Sir,

Regarding Leo McKinstry’s column on 29 October 2009 entitled ‘2011 Census is intrusive and unnecessary’, I would like to clarify some important points.

The primary purpose of the census is, and has always been, to produce an accurate estimate of the population. No alternative sources of information can provide the level of detail needed by so many policy makers and planners.

The results are used by central government to determine the allocation of billions of pounds of funding to local areas; by local government and businesses to plan services and products, and to target investments in schools, libraries, care homes, hospitals, housing, transport etc.

The new questions - for example, on migration and second homes - proposed for 2011 have been subjected to extensive consultation and testing and are aimed at getting the population count right.

The proposed questions do include details of visitors in households on census night. This is to ensure that everyone can be counted. There is nothing new in this - information on visitors has always been collected on census questionnaires. If this is thought to be controversial, then it has been so since 1801.

Yours faithfully,

Glen Watson,
Census director

 

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