The law provides for a census to be taken not less than five years after the previous one. However, every census requires further legislation that details how that particular census will be run.

The legislative process necessary to carry out a census in England and Wales is governed by the Census Act 1920, as amended by the Statistics and Registration Service Act 2007. This makes it possible for the UK Statistics Authority to take a census once Parliament has approved the necessary secondary legislation.

We’ll update this page with details of progress towards the White Paper to enable the 2021 Census in England and Wales.

A census is taken by the Registrar General for Scotland under the Census Act 1920 and by the Registrar General for Northern Ireland under the Census Act (Northern Ireland) 1969.

The conduct of the 2021 censuses in the UK – Agreement between the National Statistician and the Registrars General for Scotland and Northern Ireland

This is a statement of agreement between the National Statistician and the Registrars General for Scotland and Northern Ireland about the conduct of the 2021 censuses. It’s similar to the agreement used for the 2011 Census.

The statement outlines principles that the three census offices will work together on to make sure the 2021 censuses are successful in:

  • providing high-quality population and housing statistics for the UK

  • meeting the needs of data users

  • reflecting United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), Eurostat and other international requirements

This statement ensures that the independent censuses carried out in each constituent country of the UK provide consistent and high-quality statistics that meet user requirements for UK-level data.

The census offices will consult regularly with users, keep this agreement under constant review and publish updates on progress.

2021 National Statistician and Registrars General’s agreement – The Conduct of the 2021 Censuses in the UK (164KB, PDF).

A November 2016 update on progress is available.

Previous versions of the agreement are available; see How we planned the 2011 Census.