Select Committee on Treasury Eleventh Report

5  Preparing for the 2011 Census

Census preparation

86. Professor Martin noted that "Much better census publicity will be required in 2011, both locally directed, pointing out the importance to local communities of providing essential information for the provision of local services, and nationally, to create a supportive culture for this major data collection exercise by central government".[105]

Length of census questionnaire

87. The ONS told us that it was working on the assumption that it would produce a 24-page household questionnaire with three pages of individual questions per household member as in 2001. The Sub-Committee noted that there was significant demand for more topics than could be accommodated within three pages of individual questions.[106]

88. The Sub-Committee was told that "a four-page census form would not be too long, if it was well-designed, although the well-established trade-off between form length and completion rates was acknowledged".[107] Professor Martin noted that there was a strong desire for a question on income to be included in the 2011 form.[108] The ONS reported that it was seeking funding for an additional page of questions per person so that additional information could be collected on the population.[109] The Exchequer Secretary assured the Sub-Committee that "whether we have a three page census or a four page census I am confident we will have a robust and useful one, but at the moment I am looking with other colleagues in government to see whether we can fund the fourth page".[110]

89. The National Statistician told the Sub-Committee that the ONS needed "an extra £25 million to have a fourth page and this is something that we are working very closely with departments and the Treasury on finding a way round.".[111] The Exchequer Secretary wrote to the Committee on 2 April 2008, to report that cross-government funding would be provided to finance the fourth page of the 2011 Census.[112] The evidence we received highlighted the importance of funding a fourth page for the Census. Following our inquiry it was announced the extra £25 million need to finance this page would be provided through cross-government funding and we welcome this development.

Address register

90. Professor David Martin noted that "One of the single most important underpinning strategies for increasing response rates is to have an address list of the highest possible quality. The 2007 test showed that the best results were achieved by hand delivery of census forms and this approach must be retained for the hardest to count areas. Strong liaison with local government will be necessary to assist ONS in the creation and checking of local address lists for mail out. In particular, it will be important to identify and count the number of dwelling spaces in each area and to take full advantage of the address referencing system to track census forms". [113]

91. To improve the accuracy of the census a reliable address register is needed to identify people living in particular homes. We asked the Exchequer Secretary why no progress had been made to develop a national address register. The Exchequer Secretary said that there was no "easy answer to that. As you know, there are three different sources of address registers. We have never had a national address register."[114]

92. Professor Martin commented that the current competition between the National Land & Property Gazetteer and Ordnance Survey address products was a major threat to the census operation. He noted that each system had different strengths and weaknesses and there was no strategy for integration.[115] ONS has proposed a comprehensive national address check in the run-up to the census; "yet this entire expensive process would be unnecessary if a single definitive national address list were maintained, in which case much of the address-checking resource could be devoted to other aspects of census data collection and production". [116]

93. The Exchequer Secretary accepted that all the sources required to compile a national address register existed within the public sector; however, she noted that "There are some issues about intellectual property rights and ownership to do with the Ordnance Survey. That is my understanding. …work was discontinued partially, I suspect, because some of these issues of intellectual property and failure to agree on how to move forward on those was a pretty intractable problem." [117]

94. The Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury stressed that

"The Ordnance Survey has its own trading fund status and its intellectual property rights issues. It would say that most of the electoral registers and the gazetteers are compiled using information that is their intellectual property. There were some pretty thorny issues. …. The decision was taken that the best way of proceeding with this would be the work that was ongoing to create the national identity card scheme and the address register that would follow could be piggy backed on that, rather than this. That was the decision that was taken and announced in Parliament…in about 2006, a bit before my time in this Department."[118]

95. The Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury accepted that it was "pretty frustrating" that the Government had failed to make progress in this area.[119] We note that the Government has failed to make any progress in establishing an address register for the 2011 Census. We heard repeated references to the necessity of establishing the register yet were surprised to hear that no business case had been published. We recommend that such a case is prepared engaging all potential beneficiaries. It is unclear whether leadership weakness, lack of legislative means or the financial obligations of the trading fund status have contributed most to the failure. We recommend that the Government consult the Statistics Authority and others to remove any outstanding obstacles to the production of an address register.

Census funding and value for money  

96. The Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury told the Sub-Committee

" The settlement for the ONS and the new Statistics Board, which you will be aware is five years, not three, has been done out with the normal CSR process and did provide a generous settlement, certainly when you compare it to the other Chancellor's departments for this. It provided extra money for work on migration statistics and regional statistics particularly, developing more accurate measures of gross value added at regional level. There is already some scope in the settlement that has been made but on top of that the work that [the National Statistician] has done, particularly on the proposed fourth page of the census, we all agree would cost about £25 million and some extra for changes to migration statistics on top of the additional millions that were put in the CSR settlement, so it is of that kind of order".[120]

97. The National Statistician told the Sub-Committee that she needed more money to improve migration statistics. The Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury told the Sub-Committee that there was "not a specific amount for that that has been identified in quite the same way, but certainly it is important to know that in the CSR settlement and in the settlement letter there is explicit reference to extra funding that has been given. I think it is around five million a year for improvements in migration statistics in GBA. She is now saying that she needs more to add sophistication to migration statistics and we are certainly looking to see what we can do about that.".[121]

98. Sir Michael Scholar told the Sub-Committee that if there was not sufficient funding provided then the Board would have to consider restricting the type of statistics that ONS provide to government departments.[122] The Exchequer Secretary argued that the Statistics Board had had a very generous settlement in their five year settlement. "They have £30 million to help pay for the process of moving to independence. They have £450 million for the census and they have the equivalent of 240 million a year for the next five years, which is much more generous than the other Chancellor's departments".[123]

Census delivery contract

99. The three UK Census Authorities, the ONS (for England and Wales), the General Register Office for Scotland and the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency shortlisted two companies for the final phase of negotiations to find the supplier to help deliver the 2011 Census data capture and associated services.

100. The procurement is a joint process for the UK Census Authorities which are looking for one contractor to provide the service for both the Census Rehearsal in 2009 and the full Census in 2011. The eventual contractor's role would be to provide systems and services to assist with the collection and capture of data from the questionnaire. This would include managing the interfaces between the various services which will be carried out by other contractors. Lockheed Martin and T-Systems will be involved in further discussions and negotiations to refine requirements and costs which will lead to a best and final offer.

101. Both firms were involved in the 2007 Census Test. The main purpose of the Test was to examine the implications of the possible questionnaire and the 'post-out, post back' procedures. Lockheed Martin had responsibility for the printing of forms, delivery and data capture. T-Systems looked after the call centre, and operational intelligence which provided management information about the returned questionnaires to HQ and staff in the field. Both companies used a consortium of mostly UK-based companies to support their work.[124]

102. Lockheed Martin, one of the bidders for the 2011 delivery contract, has been the subject of an internet campaign to prevent it securing the delivery contract. The protesters are concerned that once census data entered the United States, it may be subject to forcible disclosure under the Patriot Act 2002. [125] The Act could require Lockheed Martin to provide information which they have gained through the UK census to the United States authorities. Lockheed Martin was involved in carrying out the 2006 Census in Canada and protests there led to the creation of a new privacy task force during the Census.[126]

103. Ms Matheson told the Sub-Committee that the ONS was "aware of the Patriot Act of course and have discussed the Patriot Act with both the potential suppliers. We are in a procurement phase at the moment so I do not want to say too much more about that but we have had discussions with them and we are taking legal advice with a view to making sure that the commitment we give to census form fillers is one that we can abide by, that is, that the data are kept confidential and secure for 100 years."[127]

104. American Bar Association's Human Rights Magazine, argued that the definition of "foreign intelligence information" contained in the Patriot Act was quite broad. Foreign intelligence is defined to mean "information relating to the capabilities, intentions, or activities of foreign governments or elements thereof, foreign organizations, or foreign persons or international terrorist activities." The definition goes on to specifically include information about a US person that concerns a foreign power or foreign territory and "relates to the national defense or the security of the United States" or "the conduct of the foreign affairs of the United States." [128]

105. The Exchequer Secretary wrote to the Sub-Committee to clarify the issue:

The procurement process for the support service for the 2011 Census is currently ongoing, so I am not in a position to comment on the detail of the bids. However, I can assure you that the eventual contract that ONS places with the successful bidder will have sufficient provisions to ensure that the service provider will, at no stage, allow the removal from the United Kingdom of any completed paper questionnaire, or any electronic data or images that could in any way identify an individual. Both the warehouse and the processing centre will be located within the United Kingdom.

The contract will be written specifically to warrant that the service provider protects the confidentiality, integrity and availability of confidential information, personal data and Census data. By providing this they must install security measures that comply with UK HMG specifications for RESTRICTED (Baseline) level operations.

106. We remain concerned that the personal information gathered through the 2011 Census could be subject to the United States Patriot Act and therefore we ask the Government to take clear legal advice and advice from the US State Department and to publish it in response to this Report.

105   Ev 25 Back

106   Ev 25, 42, 48, 217 Back

107   Ev 25 Back

108   Ibid. Back

109   Ev 217 Back

110   Q 301 Back

111   Q 216 Back

112   Letter from the Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury, to the Committee, on funding for the fourth page of the 2011 Census, 2 April 2008 Back

113   Ev 25-26 Back

114   Q 311 Back

115   Ev 25-26 Back

116   Ibid. Back

117   Q 312 Back

118   Q 313 Back

119   Q 314 Back

120   Q 299 Back

121   Q 300 Back

122   Qq 190-191 Back

123   Q 302 Back

124   Census test 2007, National Statistics, Back

125   Qq 211-212 Back

126   Ibid. Back

127   Qq 211-212 Back

128   Human Rights Magazine, American Bar Association, Back

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