1.In its letter of 17 June 2020, the Committee requested a memorandum in relation to three matters. The Cabinet Office’s response in relation to each matter is set out below:
Given that the definition of “household pack” is “an online household pack or a paper household pack” and the definition of “individual pack” is “an online individual pack or a paper individual pack”, explain whether regulation 9 requires the Authority to send or deliver an online pack or a paper pack to a household or elector and if the Authority is intended to have a choice, clarify how that choice will be made.
2.Regulation 9 is intended to give the Authority flexibility in whether it provides online packs or paper packs to households and electors. The drafting approach is that the Authority’s obligation to provide (by posting or delivering) a household pack or an individual pack (as appropriate) is satisfied by providing either the paper version or the online version of that pack. (To avoid confusion, it is worth emphasising that both online census packs and paper census packs consist of printed material: the online pack contains a letter with a login code to access the census questionnaire online; the paper pack contains a printed census questionnaire.)
3.The Authority’s decision to provide the paper version or the online version of either pack will be guided by the Authority’s policy approach to conducting the census, which is that, generally, respondents will be invited to complete the census online as the default option. Accordingly, the overwhelming proportion (expected to be around 89%) of packs provided to respondents will be online packs. In the first instance, a paper pack (containing a printed questionnaire) will only be provided where the Authority has information (based on the use of other government digital services, local digital connectivity, and the particular characteristics of an area) that a response is more likely to be provided if particular households or electors (or groups of households or electors) are provided with a paper questionnaire. Any respondent who receives an online pack but would prefer a paper pack may request one from the Authority under regulation 12.
4.For completeness, we also wanted to explain when a census pack would be sent by post and when it would be delivered by hand. The majority of households and electors will receive a household pack or individual pack (as appropriate) by post. In situations where a household or an elector does not have a deliverable address by post (for example unaddressed properties in caravan parks and marinas), or where hand delivery is deemed to improve response rates, the Authority can hand deliver those packs.
5.The vast majority of households and electors will receive an online pack (a printed pack containing a login code to access the questionnaire online) by post. Regulation 9 is intended to give the Authority flexibility to provide paper packs (containing printed paper questionnaires) and to deliver by hand where this would be operationally beneficial.
Clarify whether “hands” a household pack and “hands” an individual pack (regulation 10(4)), “delivers” the census packs (regulation 11(4)) and “leaves” the census pack (regulations 10(4)(a) and 11(4)(a)) are intended to have different meanings.
6.The terms “hands” in regulation 10(4), “delivers” in regulation 11(4) and “leaves” in regulations 10(4)(a) and 11(4)(a) are intended to convey slightly different meanings. “Hands” in regulation 10(4) is used to describe the transfer of possession of a single census pack by the census officer to the householder, joint householder or elector. In the equivalent situation under regulation 11(4), “delivers” is used to describe the transfer of possession of multiple census packs for that communal establishment to the person in charge of that establishment. In the context of the transfer of multiple, and potentially a large number, of census packs for a communal establishment, the concept of “handing” those packs to the relevant person is less appropriate (the packs may be delivered in a number of large boxes for example).
7.The term “leaves [with]” in regulations 10(4)(a) and 11(4)(a) is intended to convey that where the intended recipient of the pack or packs is not available, the pack(s) may be “left with” a responsible person acting on behalf of the intended recipient. The term is intended to allow a census officer or communal establishment officer to leave the pack(s) with a person who is willing to take safekeeping of the pack(s), without that person having to accept the responsibility of taking formal delivery of the pack(s).
Having regard to the complexity of, for example, regulation 13(2)(a) and the matters referred to in questions (1) and (2), was consideration given to taking a different approach to the Census (England) Regulations 2010 and leaving administrative matters to be dealt with in guidance?
8.We carefully considered the amount of detail to be included in the Regulations and this was informed by a number of principles.
9.One principle was to make sure that, as far as reasonably possible, the exact form of the online and the paper questionnaires to be used in the census was clear from the face of the Regulations, so that Parliament may be satisfied by the form and content of those questionnaires.
10.A further principle was to make sure that, as far as reasonably possible, the obligations on respondents on how they must complete and submit census returns were clearly and comprehensively set out. Again, this was so that Parliament may be satisfied about those obligations, and so that the Authority had a clear and transparent basis for the conduct of the census. In drafting the Regulations we were mindful that parts of the Regulations would actively need to be complied with by the vast majority of individuals in England and that it was appropriate to set out those obligations as fully as reasonably possible. In addition to the Regulations, the Authority will provide comprehensive guidance for respondents on how to complete the census.
23 June 2020
Published: 3 July 2020